Biblical Haman » Qur’ânic Hāmān: A Case of Straightforward Literary Transition?
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Quran Corrects The Corrupted Bible on Historical Matters
Pharaoh said: “O Haman! Build me a lofty palace, that I may attain the ways and means- The ways and means of (reaching) the heavens, and that I may mount up to the god of Moses: But as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!” [Qur’an 40:36-37]
Controversy has prevailed since the European ‘Renaissance’ regarding the historicity of a certain Haman, who according to the Qur’an, was associated with the court of Pharaoh to whom Moses was sent as a Prophet by God. Haman is mentioned by name six times in the Qur’an and is referred to as an intimate person belonging to the close circle of Pharaoh, one who was engaged in construction projects. Western scholars have concluded that Haman is unknown to ancient Egyptian history.
They say that the name Haman is first mentioned in the biblical Book of Esther, around 1,000 years after Pharaoh. The name is said to be Babylonian, not Egyptian. According to the Book of Esther, Haman was a counsellor of Ahasuerus (the biblical name of Xerxes) who was an enemy of the Jews. It has been suggested that Prophet Muhammad mixed biblical stories, namely the Jewish myths of the Tower of Babel and the story of Esther and Moses into a single confused account when composing the Qur’an.
We propose to examine the various aspects of this controversy, primarily grounded in a source-critical analysis along with a literary comparison, in light of modern historical and archaeological research.
2. Hāmān According to The Qur’an: A Brief Character Analysis
Haman is mentioned by name in six verses of the Qur’an. From these six verses we can deduce Haman is one of the characters depicted in the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, indicating it is this part of the story where the context of Haman can be properly established. Other characters that form part of this narrative are Hārūn (Prophet, supporter of Moses) and Qarūn. Three other characters, al-Samiri, the unidentified servant and the servant of God, do not play a role in the confrontation though they are part of the larger Moses narrative.
One of the most vividly described and oft-repeated head-to-head confrontations in the Qur’an, this story can be found dispersed throughout many sūrahs. Based primarily on the principal continuous text portions we can indeed discover the Qur’anic Haman and reach a more useful assessment of his character than simply listing the verses containing his name.
CONFRONTATION BETWEEN MOSES AND PHARAOH
The confrontation between Moses and the Pharaoh is one of the most vividly described stories in the Qur’an, mentioned with details in fifteen sūrahs. This part of the story begins when God sends Moses to Pharaoh with miraculous signs. After showing Pharaoh his miraculous signs, Pharaoh’s inner circle of leaders become fearful, with Pharaoh accusing Moses of being a learned sorcerer trying to expel him from Egypt by using magic.
Consequently, the Pharaoh sets a challenge between Moses and his best magicians to see whose signs are really superior; this event is given added significance as it is to take place on the renowned ‘Day of Celebration’.
When the contest takes place and Moses prevails, Pharaoh’s magicians fall prostrate and openly declare their belief in the God of Moses. Pharaoh refused to accept the result of the contest and instead threatens severe punishment to anyone who believes in Moses and his God. Frustrated by Moses’ success and the wavering of his own people, Pharaoh instructs Haman to construct for him a lofty tower so that he can survey the God of Moses, though he is convinced Moses is lying.
Thus, we can observe it is at this stage of the confrontation that Haman assumes a clearly defined role. Likewise, it is at this point in the story we reach the climax of Pharaoh’s haughtiness and arrogance, who after been given a physical demonstration of miraculous signs and personal reminders from Moses, thinks he is able to survey God as a God. Eventually Pharaoh tried to kill Moses and his followers but instead was drowned as a punishment from God and his body preserved as a sign for future generations.
The main characters in the story are undoubtedly Moses and Pharaoh, protagonist, and antagonist, respectively. Though Haman is portrayed as a minor character whose authority and power are clearly secondary to Pharaoh’s, his importance as part of Pharaoh’s court should not be underestimated. Indirectly, Haman’s seniority as part of Pharaoh’s court is mentioned in the story when Moses was sent to Pharaoh and his chiefs with signs, but they were rejected [Qur’an 7:103].
Although not mentioned by name in this verse, it is clear that Haman must be considered part of this group and he is one of Pharaoh’s leading supporters. Only snippets of information are given regarding Haman, so one cannot indulge in an all-encompassing discussion regarding his personality, character traits, etc., though what we do learn about him is not unimportant. Haman is given commands and carries them out dutifully.
He is put in charge of a very important construction project, indicating he possessed seniority and skill necessary to see the task through to completion, although we are not told anything more about the construction of the tower or if it was even built. He holds a senior enough position to be mentioned along with Pharaoh repeatedly. He was also an accuser, calling Moses a sorcerer and a liar.
Haman is portrayed as a highly unethical character; motivated by his hatred towards the believers, and, along with Pharaoh and Qarūn, he initiated the slaying of the sons of the believers sparing only their women. Haman’s character is unchanging; he does not acquire any new attributes and is described as a wrongdoer, arrogant and one who commits sins. Haman died perhaps around the same time as the Pharaoh as a punishment from God for his unbelief and tyranny.
3. Criticism and Caution by Western Scholars
Prominent Orientalists have struggled to properly situate the Haman of the Qur’an and have thus questioned his historicity. They have suggested that the appearance of Haman in the Qur’anic story of Moses and Pharaoh has resulted from a misreading of the Bible, leading the author of the Qur’an to move Haman from the Persian court of King Ahasuerus to the Egyptian court of Pharaoh.
The most detailed attempt to draw a genetic connection between the Haman of the Qur’an and the Haman of the Bible has been made by Adam Silverstein, a Fellow of Queens College and University Research Lecturer at the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford.
Silverstein’s attempt to show Haman transitioning from the Bible to the Qur’an is probably the most detailed investigation so far of any character in the Qur’an in relation to its supposed dependence and subsequent transition from its corresponding biblical counterpart.
For this reason alone, Silverstein’s article deserves special attention and interaction for the valuable insights it provides.
Modern scholars identify Father Ludovico Marraccio, an Italian monk from Lucca and Confessor to Pope Innocent XI, as the first scholar to make a chronological differentiation between the Haman of the Qur’an and the Haman of the Bible.
There is, however, an earlier occurrence that is worthwhile mentioning in that it helps to properly situate the argument, tracing its trajectory from the outset. Some 250 years earlier in Spain around 1450 CE, Pedro de la Cavalleria, a distinguished jurist and apparently a crypto-convert to Christianity from Judaism, finished composing a work entitled Christ’s Zeal against Jews, Saracens, and Infidels.
Subsequently Cavalleria was killed in 1461 CE during a period of civil unrest. His work remained largely unknown until it saw publication in Venice in 1592, edited with a fully annotated commentary by the Spanish scholar Martino Alfonso Vivaldo, based at the theological faculty, University of Bologna. Believing Muhammad to have made a glaring mistake in chronology, Cavalleria said,
This madman makes Haman to be contemporary with Pharaoh, surat. XXXIX. which how falsely and ignorantly it is said, all who understand the Holy Scriptures can declare; and he and his Followers, like Beasts, must be silent.
Vivaldo briefly comments on Cavalleria’s statement by pointing out that Haman’s appearance in the Bible is linked with the historical period associated with the Book of Esther. From this point onward, the vast majority of criticism has centred on the chronological disparity between both accounts. Moving forward, let us now look at a representative sample of critical comments from Western scholars.
One of the next writers to enter the list of critics was Marraccio. Published at the end of the 17th century as part of his monumental Latin translation of the Qur’an, he said:
Mahumet has mixed up sacred stories. He took Haman as the adviser of Pharaoh whereas in reality he was an adviser of Ahaseures, King of Persia. He also thought that the Pharaoh ordered construction for him of a lofty tower from the story of the Tower of Babel. It is certain that in the Sacred Scriptures there is no such story of the Pharaoh. Be that as it may, he [Mahumet] has related a most incredible story.
George Sale in his translation of the Qur’an said:
This name is given to Pharaoh’s Chief Minister, from which it is generally inferred that Muhammad has here made Haman, the favourite of Ahasueres, King of Persia, and who indisputably lived many ages after Moses, to be that Prophet’s contemporary. But how-probable-so-ever this mistake may seem to us, it will be hard, if not impossible to convince a Muhammadan of it.
In what has been hailed as a “classic” article by Theodor Nöldeke that was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1891 CE and reprinted several times since, he says:
The most ignorant Jew could never have mistaken Haman (the minister of Ahasuerus) for the minister of the Pharaoh…
Nöldeke’s statement is very telling, and we will return to it later in our conclusion. While dealing with the “wonderful anachronisms about the old Israelite history” in the Qur’an, Mingana says:
Who then will not be astonished to learn that in the Koran… Haman is given as a minister of Pharaoh, instead of Ahaseurus?
On the mention of Haman in the Qur’an, Henri Lammens states that it is:
“the most glaring anachronism” and is the result of “the confusion between… Haman, minister of King Ahasuerus and the minister of Moses’ Pharaoh.”
Similar views were also echoed by Josef Horovitz. Charles Torrey believed that Muhammad drew upon the rabbinic legends of the biblical Book of Esther and even adapted the story of the Tower of Babel. After talking about the apparent ‘confusion’ generated by this cobbling together of multiple sources, Arthur Jeffery says about the origin of the word ‘Haman’:
The probabilities are that the word came to the Arabs from Jewish sources.
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, under “Haman” says:
Haman, name of the person whom the Kur’an associates with Pharaoh, because of a still unexplained confusion with the minister of Ahasuerus in the Biblical book of Esther.
This claim has been repeated again by the Encyclopaedia Of Islam under “Firʿawn”. It says:
As Pharaoh’s counsellor there appears a certain Haman who is responsible in particular for building a tower which will enable Pharaoh to reach the God of Moses… the narrative in Exodus is thus modified in two respects, by misplaced recollection of both the book of Esther and the story of the tower of Babel (Genesis, xi) to which no other reference occurs in the Kur’an.
Consequently, it is not surprising to find Christian apologists, missionaries and other polemicists such as Ibn Warraq exploiting these comments in order to ‘prove’ that the Qur’an contains serious contradictions, being one of the most ‘celebrated’ amongst the Christian missionaries on the internet. Have such criticisms permeated the discussion from the outset? Interestingly, beginning around the turn of the 18th century, some Western scholars were already advising caution.
AN ARGUMENT OF STRAW
Do two people having the same name in different historical periods necessitate a relationship? For the first time, towards the end of the 17th century and the beginning the 18th century, a few Western scholars began to recognise the myths and misconceptions propagated by their academic fellows concerning Islamic beliefs and practices did not stand up to scrutiny under examination and realised that one needed to come to terms with Islam as a religion in its own right.
The first scholar in Europe attempting to do so in a systematic fashion was Adriaan Reland, who from 1701 onwards was Professor of Oriental languages in the University of Utrecht. Known as his most famous work, the second part of De Religione Mohammedica Libri Duo responded to forty-one ‘common misconceptions’ held by his contemporaries and those who preceded him. Section 21 is titled, ‘Concerning Haman that was contemporary with Pharaoh’.
We will quote the relevant analysis of Reland so we can properly appreciate the jist of his argument, which, in its basic outline, remains the same today. He said,
I confess, we may believe, if we please, that Mahomet thought Haman (of whom we read in the book of Esther) liv’d in the time of Pharaoh. But we are under no necessity to believe this, unless from the sole Opinion we have of Mahomet’s gross ignorance.
Much less can we demonstrate that Mahomet, when he makes Haman and Pharaoh Contemporary, meant the Haman in our Bible. How just, I beseech you, is that Consequence, and how fit to repel the Turks! Because Mahomet speaks of Haman, cap. 29. Therefore he speaks of that Haman whom our Bible mentions. Who does not see this is an Argument of Straw?
One should be careful not to romanticise Reland’s approach. His outlook was quite simple and admirable in terms of the forthright fashion this accomplished scholar set out his overall intention. Such openness as the kind practised by Reland is rarely glimpsed in present-day academia with all its modern pressures.
Instead of fighting a set of misconceptions, Reland believed it was only by understanding Islam on its own terms that Christianity could triumph. Finishing off Section 21 he says, “But what I have said is sufficient for my purpose; and is only intended to make our Writers more wary, that the Authority of the Alcoran may be beat down only with valid Reasonings, and the Truth of Christianity may triumph.”
Despite these theological concerns, Reland is at least successful in highlighting the potential pitfalls in viewing Islam, the Qur’an and Muhammad exclusively through the prism of earlier biblical tradition. Breaking with the trend of seeing Haman as simply misappropriated from its biblical context, the Encyclopaedia Of The Qur’an makes an intriguing suggestion about the possible identity of Haman,
There are conflicting views as to Haman’s identity and the meaning of his name. Among them is that he is the minister of King Ahasuerus who has been shifted, anachronistically, from the Persian empire to the palace of Pharaoh… Other suggestion is that Haman is an Arabized echo of the Egyptian Ha-Amen, the title of a high priest second only in rank to Pharaoh.
Unfortunately, no evidence is offered for this suggestion, and one is instead directed to the bibliography in a search for answers. Let us first examine the authenticity and historical reliability of the biblical Book of Esther from where Muhammad supposedly appropriated the character of Haman.
4. A Critical Examination of The Biblical Evidence Used Against the Qur’an
Weighing up the statements given in the previous section from Christian and Jewish scholars to other less well-known categories of critics such as Christian missionaries, apologists and polemicists, with contributions ranging in type, from scholarly monographs to detailed encyclopaedia entries, their criticisms can be encapsulated on the basis of the following three assumptions:
- Because the Bible has been in existence longer than the Qur’an, the biblical account is the correct one, as opposed to the Qur’anic account, which is necessarily inaccurate and false.
- The Bible is in conformity with firmly established secular knowledge, whereas the Qur’an contains certain incompatibilities.
- Muhammad copied and, in some cases, altered the biblical material when composing the Qur’an.
It goes without saying those writers who ground their objections in some or all of the assumptions stated above, the whole basis for the Haman controversy is the appearance of a Haman in the Qur’an in a historical period different from that of the Bible.
The claim that the Qur’anic account of Haman reflects confused knowledge of the biblical story of Esther implies that any reference to a Haman must have biblical precursors. Furthermore, this assumption itself implies that either Haman is an unhistorical figure that never existed outside the Bible, or that if he was historical, then he could only have been the Prime Minister of the Persian King Ahasuerus, as depicted in the Book of Esther.
Unsurprisingly, their assumptions obviously preclude the possibility that the Bible has its information wrong concerning Haman. Thus, only if the Book of Esther can be shown to be both historically reliable and accurate, can those writers be justified in making the claim the Qur’an contradicts the earlier, more “reliable” historical biblical account.
It will come as a welcome surprise to many that not everyone who has written about this topic predicates their arguments on some or all of the assumptions stated above. Nevertheless, as these assumptions continue to permeate the academic discussion regarding this particular topic, it seems justified for one to examine just how much substance should be attached to the biblical evidence, grounded first and foremost in an enquiry into the historicity of the Book of Esther.
THE HISTORICITY OF THE BOOK OF ESTHER AND ITS CHARACTERS
Does the Book of Esther and the characters present in it have any historicity? Whatever side of the debate one finds himself or herself on, it is a fundamentally important question, an issue which has not been tackled by those claimants whose implicit assumptions rule out the possibility that the biblical story of Esther contains historical errors, even though such a position leads to a circular argument.
Those Jewish and Christian scholars have denied the historicity of the Book of Esther is something of an understatement. It would appear the people who subscribe to the full historicity of the Book of Esther are those whose dogmatic approach to historical and theological exegesis precludes the possibility of any historical problems arising from the biblical narrative.
Believing one’s holy book to be infallible is of course a mainstream belief found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But what happens when such beliefs do not square with commonly accepted ‘historical facts’? While discussing the historical problems of the Book of Esther, Professor Jon Levenson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at the Harvard Divinity School, says:
Even if we make this questionable adjustment, the historical problems with Esther are so massive as to persuade anyone who is not already obligated by religious dogma to believe in the historicity of the biblical narrative to doubt the veracity of the narrative.
Naturally this statement does not sit comfortably with those who have used the Book of Esther to substantiate the historical “contradiction” in the Qur’anic account of Haman. Many scholars have dealt with the problems regarding the historicity of the Book of Esther.
Michael Fox, Professor of Hebrew at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who also specialises in Egyptian literature and its relationship with biblical literature, has detailed the arguments for and against the book’s historicity. Fox mentions numerous inaccuracies, implausibilities and outright impossibilities in this biblical book. After considering the arguments in detail, Fox concludes with the following negative assessment:
Various legendary qualities as well as several inaccuracies and implausibilities immediately throw doubt on the book’s historicity and give the impression of a writer recalling vaguely remembered past.
Similar assessments were made by Lewis Paton  and Carey Moore and they both arrived at the same conclusion that the story in the Book of Esther is not historical. The views of Judaeo-Christian scholars concerning the historicity of the Book of Esther and its characters have been succinctly described by Adele Berlin, one of the editors of the Jewish Study Bible. She said,
Very few twentieth-century Bible scholars believed in the historicity of the book of Esther, but they certainly expended a lot of effort justifying their position. Lewis Bayles Paton, in 1908, wrote fourteen pages outlining the arguments for and against historicity and concluded that the book is not historical. In 1971 Carey A. Moore devoted eleven pages to the issue and arrived at the same conclusion.
In more recent commentaries, those of Michael V. Fox in 1991 and Jon D. Levenson in 1997, we find nine and five pages respectively, with both authors agreeing that the book is fictional. You might notice that the number of pages is going down, probably because all the main points were laid out by Paton, and if you are going to rehash an argument you should do it in fewer pages than the original.
With this in mind, it is therefore not our intention to ‘rehash’ every single detail, but rather highlight some beneficial summaries taken from a variety of biblical commentaries, Jewish and Christian (Protestant and Catholic) that form part of the historical enquiry into Esther and its characters. We can thus come to terms with some of the key data the aforementioned scholars interacted with before delivering their assessment.
The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, under “Esther”, says:
The majority of scholars, however, regard the book as a romance reflecting the customs of later times and given an ancient setting to avoid giving offence. They point out that the 127 provinces mentioned are in strange contrast to the historical twenty Persian Satrapies; that it is astonishing that while Mordecai is known to be a Jew, his ward and
cousin, Esther, can conceal the fact that she is a Jewess – that the known queen of Xerxes, Amestris, can be identified with neither Vashti nor Esther; that it would have been impossible for a non-Persian person to be appointed prime minister or for a queen to be selected except from the seven highest noble families; that
Mordecai’s ready access to the palaces is not in consonance with the strictness with which the Persian harems were guarded; that the laws of Medes and Persians were never irrevocable; and that the state of affairs in the book, amounting practically in civil war, could not have passed unnoticed by historians if this had actually occurred.
The very tone of the book itself, its literary craftsmanship and the aptness of its situations, point rather to a romantic story than a historical chronicle.
Some scholars even trace it to a non-Jewish origin entirely; it is, in their opinion, either a reworking of a triumph of the Babylonian gods Marduk (Mordecai) and Ishtar (Esther) over the Elamite gods Humman (Haman) and Mashti (Vashti), or of the suppression of the Magians by Darius I, or even the resistance of the Babylonians to the decree of Artaxerxes II. According to this view, Purim is a Babylonian feast which was taken over by the Jews, and the story of which was given a Jewish colouring.
Published about one hundred years ago, The Jewish Encyclopedia already asserted that,
Comparatively few modern scholars of note consider the narrative of Esther to rest on a historical foundation… The vast majority of modern expositors have reached the conclusion that the book is a piece of pure fiction, although some writers qualify their criticism by an attempt to treat it as a historical romance.
The more recent Jewish Publication Society Bible Commentary is quite frank about the exaggeration and the lack of historicity of the story in the biblical Book of Esther. It labels the story in the Book of Esther as a “farce”:
The language, like the story, is full of exaggeration and contributes to the sense of excess. There are exaggerated numbers (127 provinces, a 180-day party, a 12-month beauty preparation, Haman’s offer of 10,000 talents of silver, a stake 50 cubits high, 75,000 enemy dead)… Esther’s attempt to sound like a historical work is tongue in cheek and not to be taken at face value.
The author was not trying to write history, or to convince his audience of the historicity of his story (although later readers certainly took it this way). He is, rather, offering a burlesque of historiography… The archival style, like the verbal style, make the story sound big and fancy, official and impertinent at the same time – and this is exactly the effect that is required for such a book. All these stylistic features reinforce the sense that the story is a farce.
The Peake’s Commentary On The Bible discusses the historicity of the characters and events mentioned in the Book of Esther. It describes the book as a novel with no historical basis. Furthermore, it deals with the possible identification of Esther, Haman, Vashti and Mordecai with the Babylonian and Elamite gods and goddess.
The story is set in the city of Susa in the reign of Akhashwerosh, king of Persia and Media. This name is now prove to refer to Xerxes, who reigned over Media as well as Persia.
The book correctly states that his empire extended from India to Ethiopia, a fact which may well have been remembered long afterwards, especially by someone living in the East, but in other matters the author is inaccurate, for instance in regard to the number of provinces. Xerxes’ wife was named Amestris, and not either Vashti or Esther.
The statement in Est. 1:19 and 8:5 that the laws of Persia were unalterable is also found in Dan. 6:9, 13. It is not attested by any other early evidence and seems most unlikely. The most probable suggestion is that it was invented by the author of Daniel to form an essential part of his dramatic story, and afterwards copied by the author of Esther.
It is therefore agreed by all modern scholars that Esther was written long after the time of Xerxes as a novel, with no historical basis, but set for the author’s purposes in a time long past. It is pretty clear that the author’s purpose was to provide an historical origin for the feast of Purim, which the Jews living somewhere in the East had adopted as a secular carnival.
This feast and its mythology are now recognised as being of Babylonian origin. Mordecai represents Marduk, the chief Babylonian God. His cousin Esther represents Ishtar, the chief Babylonian Goddess, who was the cousin of Marduk. Other names are not so obvious, but there was an Elamite God Humman or Humban, and Elamite Goddess Mashti. These names may lie behind Haman and Vashti.
One may well imagine that the Babylonian festival enacted a struggle between the Babylonian gods on the one hand and the Elamite gods on the other.
The authors of The New Interpreter’s Bible, like the other writers that we have mentioned earlier, state that the biblical Book of Esther is work of fiction that happens to contain some historical elements. It then lists many factual errors only to conclude that the Book of Esther is not a historical record.
Although much ink has been spilled in attempting to show that Esther, or some parts of it is historical, it is clear that the book is a work of fiction that happens to contain some historical elements. The historical elements may be summarized as follows: Xerxes, identified as Ahaseurus, was a “great king” whose empire extended from the borders of India to the borders of Ethiopia. One of the four Persians capitals was located as Susa (the other three being Babylon, Ecbatana, and Persepolis).
Non-Persians could attain to high office in the Persian court (witness Nehemiah), and the Persian empire consisted of a wide variety of peoples and ethnic groups. The author also displays a vague familiarity with the geography of Susa, knowing, for example, that the court was separate from the city itself.
Here, however, the author’s historical veracity ends. Among the factual errors found in the book we may list these: Xerxes’ queen was Amestris, to whom he was married throughout his reign; there is no record of a Haman or a Mordecai (or, indeed, of any non-Persian) as second to Xerxes at any time; there is no record of a great massacre in which thousands of the people were killed at any point in Xerxes’ reign.
The book of Esther is not a historical record, even though its author may have wished to present it as history…
Compiled by Roman Catholic scholars, The Jerome Biblical Commentary brands the Book of Esther as a “fictitious story” that was freely embellished and modified in the course of its transmissional history.
Literary Form. On this point, scholarly opinion ranges from pure myth to strict history. Most critics, however, favor a middle course of historical elements with more or less generous historical embellishments… The Greek additions in particular appear to be essentially literary creations. That neither author intended to write strict history seems obvious from the historical inaccuracies, unusual coincidences, and other traits characteristic of folklore…
On the other hand, there is no compelling reason for denying the possibility of an undetermined historical nucleus, and the author’s generally accurate picture of Persian life tends to support this possibility. Several details of Est [i.e., Esther] suggest a fictitious story.
The very fact of variations between the Hebrew and the deuterocanonical additions show that the book was freely embellished in the course of its history. Then there are many difficulties concerning Mordecai’s age, and the wife of Xerxes (Amestris).
Moreover, the artificial symmetry suggests fiction: Gentile against Jews; Vashti as opposed to Esther; the hanging of Haman and the appointment of Mordecai as the vizier; the anti-Semitic pogrom and the slaying of the gentiles. A law of contrasts is obviously at work… As is stands, it has been developed very freely as the “festal legend” of a Feast of Purim, which is itself otherwise unknown to us.
A New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture points out that the book is given credence only by those who believe that since the Book of Esther is a biblical book, it must be true. It then goes on to wonder if there is any significance in the similarity between the names mentioned in the Book of Esther and the Babylonian and Elamite gods and goddess.
To what extent the story of Esther is factual is debated. On the face of it, not many people would give much credence to Est [i.e., Esther] as history but for the fact that it is a biblical book and ‘the Bible is true’.
The evidence we have suggests that we have a tale set against an historical background, embodying at least one historical character (Xerxes) and some accurate references to actual usages of Persia, but a tale making no serious attempt to chronicle facts, aiming rather at producing certain moral attitude in the reader…
Yet it appears that Xerxes’ queen was neither Vashti nor Esther but Amestris; we have no further information inside or outside the Bible (e.g. Sir 44ff) of a Jewish queen who saved her people or of a pious Mordecai who rose to such heights in the Persian court…
One may wonder whether there is a significance in the similarity between the name Esther and the name of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, between the name Mordecai and the name of the god Marduk, so that one would have to look for the source of the tale among the myths of Elamite gods. But one can only wonder.
From the foregoing material, it is clear that Judeo-Christian scholars do not consider the story to be a genuine historical narrative, and of little or no historical value. Furthermore, no scholar claimed that the character Haman actually ever existed.
In fact, all characters in the Book of Esther, with perhaps the exception of Ahasuerus, are unknown to history even though the book itself claims that its events are “written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia” [Esther 10:2].
Though there are some conservative scholars who argue for some form or even full historical basis for Esther and/or its characters, their analyses have generally not been persuasive. The bewildering variety of literary genres assigned to this book adds to the confusion. How is this book to be read?
Most scholars describe Esther as a historicised novel / diaspora novel, or something similar. Levenson reminds us, “This is not to say that the book is false, only that its truth, like the truth of any piece of literature, is relative to its genre, and the genre of Esther is not that of the historical annal (though it sometimes imitates the style of a historical annal).” 
Ensuring the literary genre reaches an appropriate category is the means by which some scholars soften the serious historical problems and exaggerations, as they seek to argue Esther should not be read as a strict historical narrative but rather, for example, as a heroic-comic narrative or some other similar literary classification.
Concerning the character Haman, the Encyclopedia Judaica states:
Various explanations have been offered to explain the name and designation of the would-be exterminator of the Jews. The names of both Haman and his father have been associated with haoma, a sacred drink used in Mithraic worship, and with the Elamite god Humman. The name Haman has also been related to the Persian hamayun, ‘illustrious’, and to the Persian name Owanes.
The Interpreter’s Dictionary of The Bible shares a similar view:
Some scholars view the story of Esther as reflecting a mythological struggle between the gods of Babylon and Elam, with Haman identified as the Elamite god Humman.
As for Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther, he is usually identified with King Xerxes I, King of Persia (486-465 BCE). The Webster’s Biographical Dictionary informs us that:
Ahasuerus: Name as used in the Bible, of two unidentified kings of Persia: (1) the great king whose capital was Shushan, modern Susa, sometimes identified with Xerxes the Great, but chronological and other data conflict; (2) the father of Darius the Mede.
There exists an unhistorical Haman in the Book of Esther. This unhistorical Haman is portrayed as the Prime Minister of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I?), King of Persia. Though the author shows familiarity and knowledge of Persian life and courtly customs, the events recorded in the Book of Esther show little correlation with those of the actual reign of Xerxes I. Long ago theologians both Jewish and Christian, had a difficult time accepting the Book of Esther whose canonicity was held in low esteem, especially in the east among early Christians.
THE TEXTUAL STABILITY AND CANONICITY OF ESTHER
A quick glance at the comments of Western scholars critical of the Haman episode detailed in the Qur’an, show they either explicitly state or implicitly assume the story narrated by the Book of Esther was ‘fixed’ centuries before the Qur’an was written down. Opening up his discussion on the significance of the question Silverstein says,
“Although the historicity of the Book of Esther has been rightly challenged by scholars for centuries, it is clear that the Biblical story – even if it is but a historical novella – was fixed centuries before the Qur’ān came into existence.” 
If this statement is to be understood as a comment on the textual quality of Esther, then by no means can it be described as ‘fixed’. Should ‘fixed’ be taken to mean the story as represented by the Book of Esther was in existence centuries before the Qur’an then this is of course quite true. So just how has Esther been transmitted to us?
Believed to have been composed around the 4th century to 3rd century BCE (i.e., late Persian to early Hellenistic period), there are three distinct textual versions of Esther extant today, the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT), the Greek LXX (known as B-text) and a second Greek text (known as A-text).
The B-text is a free / paraphrased translation of the text represented by the Hebrew MT with an additional six substantial additions (known as Adds A-F). Among the topics included in these six additions are the text of the letters of Haman and Mordecai and the long prayers of Esther and Mordecai. There are also a number of other minor omissions and additions, some that contradict the Hebrew MT.
The A-text is similar to the B-text containing the same six additions; however, the A-text is 29% shorter than the B-text and matters are further complicated as the A-text has material not contained in the B-text. Due to these differences some scholars believe the A-text is translated from a Hebrew text different from the text represented by the Hebrew MT.
Others propose the B-text is the primary source of the A-text. To visualise these additions in terms of numbers, Hebrew MT Esther contains 3,044 words, the A-text 4,761 words, and the B-text 5,837 words.
In percentage terms, the A-text is 56.41% longer and the B-text 91.75% longer than the Hebrew MT. Adjusting these percentages to recognise the language differentiation, the A-text is around 45% longer and the B-text 77% longer. The earliest extant manuscript attesting to any of the versions of Esther is a Greek papyrus fragment generally agreeing with the B-text, datable to the late first or early second century CE.
What historical circumstances brought about these additions? Ancient Jewish scribes troubled by the lack of religiosity and otherwise overtly secular nature of the book, decided to add more than one hundred verses to the text, interspersed in the beginning, middle and end of the book – within the first ten verses of the two Greek versions of Esther there is a cry to God for help.
The inclusion of a multiplicity of theological maxims and the repeated mention God (over fifty times) is significant as the Hebrew MT version of Esther makes no mention of God whatsoever, or indeed any specifically religious practice with perhaps the exception of fasting.
These additions which do not appear in the extant Hebrew text are accepted as canonical in the Roman Catholic Bibles (and many others) while Protestant Bibles reject them as apocryphal.
The Proto A and Pre-Proto A posited by Fried are meant to establish where the “Ur-Text” resides [Figure 1]; they do not exist in documentary form. It is important to remember though that the three versions that have been discussed so far are based on real documents and have not been conjectured.
Therefore, from the standpoint of its textual transmission, it is clear that the text of Esther has never been ‘fixed’, existing today in different versions. Proceeding from Esther’s fluid transmissional history, early Jews and Christians were led to dispute its canonicity.
The Book of Esther, which is now regarded by Jews and Christians as canonical, has been embroiled in dispute until the present day. From antiquity onwards its canonicity was hotly contested by members of both religions and their sub-sects. The Book of Esther was evidently not used by the Jewish community in Qumran – being the only book of the Old Testament to be unrepresented in the manuscripts – neither is there any evidence the Purim festival initiated by it was celebrated.
According to the Talmud, as late as 3rd or 4th century CE, some Jews still did not regard Esther as canonical. This lack of unanimity regarding the canonical status of Esther was not limited to the Jewish community only, witnessed by similar disputes flaring in Christian circles as well. Figure 2 depicts the canonical status of Esther in the early Christian church.
From the above figure, it can be seen that in the West, Esther was nearly always canonical, while in the East very often it was not. Among the Christians in the East, especially those in the area of Anatolia (in modern day Turkey) and Syria, the Book of Esther was often denied canonical status.
This is confirmed by studying the list of canonical books by Melito of Sardis (c. 170 CE), Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390 CE), Junilius (c. 550 CE) and Nicephorus (d. 828 CE). While denying the canonical status of Esther, Athanasius (c. 367 CE) did include it with the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Judith, and Tobit for catechetical reading. Amphilochius (d. 394 CE) observed that it was accepted only by some.
However, as has been noted, in the West, Esther was almost always regarded as canonical. It was accepted by Hilary (c. 360 CE), Augustine (c. 395 CE), Innocent I (c. 405 CE), Rufinus (d. 410 CE), Decree of Gelasius (c. 500 CE), Cassiodorus (c. 560 CE) and Isidorus (d. 636 CE). Esther was also present in the list of Cheltenham canon (c. 360 CE) and codex Claromontanus (c. 350 CE). This book was also endorsed as canonical in the council of Carthage (c. 397 CE).
During the Reformation, the Canon of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was called into question. Generally, the Protestants disputed the Catholic claim to interpret scripture, either by Papal decree or by the action of Church councils. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546 CE), one of the Protestant reformers, said concerning the Book of Esther:
I am so great an enemy to the second book of Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities.
Luther’s position appeared to have been wavering concerning the Book of Esther. Andres Bodenstein von Karlstadt (c. 1480 – 1541 CE), an early friend and fellow professor of Luther at the University of Wittenberg, included the Book of Esther in his third and lowest class of biblical books which he termed tertius ordo canonis. Despite what Luther had claimed concerning the Book of Esther, he included it in his translation of the Bible.
The low esteem in which Esther was held by prominent Protestant reformers reflects the polarisation of views that were characteristic of the book almost from its beginnings. However, it would be wrong to think the discussion surrounding the virtues of Esther stopped after the Reformation period.
We have observed those communities which did and did not include Esther in their canon; more fundamental are the reasons why the Jews and Christians had such a hard time accepting Esther. Brighton summarises the tensions in Jewish and Christian writings,
Jewish opposition to Esther surfaces in at least two areas, the one theological and the other historical. The principal theological objection, according to the Jerusalem Megilla 70d, is that the celebration of Purim stands in conflict with the statute of Leviticus 27:34. This statute suggests that only laws and festivals of the Mosaic code were to be observed by Jews.
However, in Judaism this did not always hold true, because Hanukkah was a religious festival accepted by Jews and was not prescribed by Moses. Jewish objection also centered on the absence of any religious elements. While the king of Persia is mentioned several times throughout the book, God is not once mentioned. Especially objectionable was the fact that neither Law nor Covenant is even so much as alluded to, let alone mentioned as having any role in the book—these two concepts run throughout the Old Testament.
Probably the best defense of Esther in view of its secular character is that the author intended his story to be a “parody” of paganism, as suggested by Cohen, or a “wisdom tale, a historicized wisdom tale” as Talmon called it. It is a graphic portrayal of “Wisdom motifs” in the characters of Esther and Mordecai and thus should be understood theologically as Wisdom literature.
But even if one were to view Esther as “veiled Wisdom Theology,” and thus explain the absence of anything religious or theological, it does not help in understanding Esther.
Jewish opposition to the historicity of Esther not only includes the questioning of elements within the story itself—such as Vashti’s refusal to obey the king’s command (1:12); a feast given by the king lasting 180 days (1:1-3); letters sent out in all the languages of the empire instead of in Aramaic (1:22; 3:12; 8:9), but also and in particular the origin of the feast itself.
As the name of the feast suggests, Purim could have been non-Jewish in origin. The secular character of the feast with its excessive drinking and partying in place of religious activities of prayers and sacrifices also suggests a pagan origin.
Paul Lagarde hinted at the possibility of its origin in the Persian festival of the dead. Others saw the origin in the Babylonian myths or festivals. Whatever the origin, Jewish or non-Jewish, the festival of Purim in Judaism, as also in the Christian world, has been suspect because of its secular character and possible origins in a non-Jewish pagan setting.
Of course, one does not need to turn to modern theologians for a summary of Jewish tensions. Their feelings are clearly evidenced by the additional narrative expansions introduced by them into the text of Esther more than 2,000 years ago. For the Hellenised Jews in particular, Esther and Purim were well-received.
Christian opposition to the Book of Esther can be said at least to equal that of Judaism. The secular character of the book as well as the obscure origins of the festival of Purim made Esther even more meaningless for Christians. As in the case of Qumran, the Christian church found no counterpart in its calendar for Purim—as it did for the festivals of Passover and Pentecost.
If the Jew had difficulty applying or deriving any comfort from Esther, the Christian certainly had more. In fact, at times Christians found the book to be anti-Gentile and too nationalistic to be of value in application. But the greatest difficulty the Christian has had with Esther is that not once is it alluded to in the New Testament.
There is no quotation, no reference, and no allusion to the book. As far as the New Testament is concerned, Esther does not exist, for no use whatsoever is made of it. This is not surprising, perhaps, when it is remembered that Esther has no explicit reference to or stated place in the covenant history of God and Israel. What is surprising, however, is that in the entire New Testament there is no reference to or hint of either Esther or the festival of Purim.
As in the case of the Dead Sea scrolls and Qumran, it could be said that from such an absence in the New Testament scrolls the Book of Esther and the festival of Purim had no place in the Christian community. Whether this is a possible interpretation (by silence) or not, early Christianity did not comment on the book or the festival, for whatever reason.
Furthermore, a Christian commentary on Esther was not written until Rhabanus Maurus’ work in 836, and even casual references are rare among the church Fathers. Today, Christians are no further advanced in the use of the book. In Judaism both the book and the festival overcame whatever rabbinical opposition existed, and may still exist, so that as a result both today are popular.
But not so within Christianity. While on the one hand we acknowledge its beauty in its story interest, even to the extent of reckoning it “among the masterpieces of world literature,” we, nevertheless, still see it as “an uninviting wilderness,” theologicaly speaking.
Even Christian attempts to theologize the book have failed in gaining the acceptance of it in Christian piety. So, contrary to what has happened in Judaism, Esther for all intents and purposes remains a closed book for Christians. What is the answer?
Brighton’s proposes a kind of intermediate solution. He believes what is presupposed in the Hebrew MT is explicitly stated in the Greek text. Therefore, he recommends reading the Hebrew MT in light of the Greek text in order to “rescue Esther from near oblivion in its usage in the church”.
He finishes his conclusion by stating the Greek text should act as a commentary on the Hebrew MT until such time modern Christians attain a level a “theological insight”, at which point the Greek text can be dispensed with in favour of ‘canonical’ Esther (i.e., Hebrew MT version).
Brighton touches on an important point and that is the non-usage of Esther in exposition. In his thought provoking essay on the notion of canon and its multiplicity of meanings, Ulrich mentions this phenomenon which is known as “a canon within a canon”.
This occurs when some books are given priority over others by virtue of conflicting theologies within the canon, each reader locating their own preferences and religious leanings.
Thus, although physically part of today’s Christian canon, Esther is very seldom preached from or expounded upon ensuring a reduction in its status to that of opus non gratum.
SHOULD THE BOOK OF ESTHER BE USED AS EVIDENCE AGAINST THE QUR’AN?
Why have such lengthy detailed discussions on the historicity, canonicity and textual stability of Esther? What do the details here have to do with the mention of Haman in the Qur’an? It is clear if one reads the sample of critical comments provided in section three, none of the critics thought it necessary to establish the historicity of Esther and its characters, before claiming the Qur’an contradicted the earlier necessarily historical account of Haman found in the Bible (i.e., in the Book of Esther).
Both the historicity and textual stability of the Book of Esther are assumed and then the arguments are made. Since the Book of Esther is not historical, the characters mentioned in the book can in no way be connected with actual Persian history.
Therefore, the name “Haman” mentioned in the book is clearly fictitious. Given such problems, the placing of the name “Haman” by the Qur’an in ancient Egypt cannot be considered unhistorical on the basis of a person named Haman in the Book of Esther – for it can suggest that a person with a similar name can also exist in another part of the world and in a different time period – a possibility which many critics refuse to even consider.
In any case it seems clear the Book of Esther cannot be used as evidence against the Qur’an, when such evidence is used to unequivocally prove the Qur’an contradicts the earlier, more “reliable” biblical account purportedly confirmed by secular knowledge.
One could argue that even if Esther and its characters have no historical basis, the Qur’an has merely misappropriated a fictional character from an unhistorical setting. Not all scholars predicate their criticisms on the appearance of Haman in the Qur’an in a different historical period than that of Esther, on the basis of the assumed historicity of the later. It is to these criticisms we now turn.
5. Hāmān In Context: A Literary and Source Critical Assessment of Silverstein’s Hāmān
Seeking to elucidate the cultural-religious context of the Qur’an, Silverstein’s stance on the controversy of the appearance of a person named Haman in the Qur’an has moved the conversation into unchartered territory. Instead of arguing on the basis of the historicity of Esther and its characters as the majority of earlier critics have done either
explicitly or implicitly, he has brought to attention never before used sources, such as the story of Ahiqar and Samak-e ʿAyyār, in addition to those better known and widely quoted. Silverstein’s textual tour de force is remarkable, as one is taken on a journey in time from the neo-Assyrian Empire all the way down to 14th century Persia, a time span
approaching two millennia. After reviewing some medieval Islamic commentators, Silverstein conclusively shows the Haman they were describing was certainly indebted to the corresponding biblical narrative. For this reason he believes any modern attempts to loosen the connection between the two to be unconvincing.
Naming A. H. Johns as a notable dissenter in the prevailing Western scholarly consensus, Silverstein says such arguments against the association of the two Haman’s “… forces us to explain systematically Haman’s transition from the Bible to the Qur’an.” After an ordered survey of the literary evidence, Silverstein concludes Qur’anic Haman and Esther’s Haman “have been shown to be one and the same.”
PROBLEMATIC TERMINOLOGY OR SERIOUS METHODOLOGICAL FLAW?
A not inconsiderate number of early commentators of the Qur’an sought to further explain some of the incidents reported there and resorted to supplementing their knowledge with details from stories they heard from Jewish and Christian informants among others. Showing that medieval commentators used biblical material to explain stories and characters found in the Qur’an is not a new discovery. It was in this very milieux that these medieval Muslim scholars applied a technical term to such sources, naming them isrā’īliyyāt.
Usually, the term isrā’īliyyāt was applied to stories of Jewish origin, though more generally it could also be applied to any information whose origin was not to be found in the Islamic historical tradition; it was also used to designate a corpus of reports deemed unreliable for use. The material usage of such sources in Qur’anic exegesis has been critically discussed conceptually in Islamic circles approaching 1,000 years.
Though he did not use the term isrā’īliyyāt, the Andalusian exegete Ibn Atiyya (d. 541 AH / 1146 CE) was the first scholar to pay systematic attention to the implausibility of these types of reports, more than two centuries before the critical exegesis of Ibn Kathīr’s (d. 774 AH / 1373 CE). With this in mind, Silverstein’s defence of the isrā’īliyyāt stories regarding Pharaoh and Haman transmitted by some medieval commentaries is puzzling; he seems to be suggesting only those Islamic accounts based on biblical material are convincing.
Indeed, instead of focussing on Haman and Pharaoh as found in the Qur’an and the Qur’an alone, Silverstein uses these obviously derivative accounts to prove the Qur’an is derivative, and it is the backbone of his methodology. Once realised, it is easy to spot the flaw in the process: derivative writings on a text do not imply the text itself is derivative. One (out of many) of the best examples of this inconsistent methodology is the sub-section ‘Genealogical relationship between the book of Esther’s Haman and the Qur’anic Pharaoh’.
He states the preceding characters were widely acknowledged as having been “blood relatives”. Crucially, the reason for this link is based on Qur’an commentaries and not the Qur’an. Nowhere does the Qur’an give any concrete information as to Pharaoh’s ethnic origin, let alone that he was Amalekite or Persian. In fact, the Qur’an gives none of the information used by Silverstein to show Esther’s Haman and the Qur’anic Pharaoh were “blood relatives”.
Utilising the commentaries of al-Ṭabarī, al-Maqdisī and al-Qurṭubī whom themselves, are, in places, strongly indebted to their biblical forerunners, to then claim this is what the Qur’an itself promotes is a mischaracterisation of the evidence at the least, or a misrepresentation of the evidence at the worst.
Perhaps Silverstein recognised this problem of terminology himself as the concluding sentence of the sub-section uses the term ‘Islamic’ instead of ‘Qur’anic’ as found in the subtitle. Going to an even further extreme, evidence of Qur’anic commentaries can be relevant even when they contradict what the Qur’an itself says! What relevance can such a statement have when it is in open opposition to what is mentioned in the Qur’an?
Silverstein says it is ‘noteworthy’ some Qur’anic commentators believed the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time was the same Pharaoh of Moses. But the Qur’an never mentions any character called ‘Pharaoh’ in Joseph’s time, rather the ruler is consistently called as ‘King’. The evidence of some commentators may be ‘noteworthy’ in the sense they support Silverstein’s reading, but if one is interested in what the Qur’an has to say for itself, the significance is lost.
Thus a major methodological problem of Silverstein’s literary analysis is equating Qur’anic commentaries that appear centuries later in a much changed religio-cultural geo-political milieu, in meaning with the Qur’an itself. This problematic method underwrites a significant portion of Silverstein’s literary comparisons, rendering its conclusions void, if what is meant by the use of terms such as ‘Qur’anic’ is the Qur’an alone and not later writings on the Qur’an. One is free to describe words in their own terms, but words have meanings and these meanings are conveyed to the reader.
If ‘Qur’anic’ has a wider textual application than its straightforward contextual interpretation would suggest, this should be explained to the reader. One may justifiably ask what the following summarised phrases in his article mean, ‘Qur’an(ic) Haman’, ‘Haman who makes a transition to the Qur’an’, ‘Haman who appears in the Qur’an’, ‘Qur’anic figure of Haman’ , ‘Haman depicted in the Qur’an” and “two Haman’s’?
Do they mean Haman as found exclusively in the Qur’an, or do they mean Haman as found primarily in Qur’anic commentaries, or a mixture of the two? The same could also be said of Qur’anic Pharaoh. Weighing these objections together, the failure to maintain an accurate distance between the different contexts in which these characters appear, is a terminological problem bordering on a serious methodological flaw.
Instead, sometimes we are left to wonder just which Haman (i.e., Qur’an or Qur’anic commentaries) Silverstein thinks has been appropriated from biblical literature. In many cases it is clear he is mainly concerned with the Haman as supplemented by the Qur’anic commentaries, which as we have already said, he has conclusively shown to be indebted to its biblical counterpart.
Nevertheless, when these later writings are interrogated and found to contain material of obvious biblical origin, their context cannot be back projected into the Qur’an.
Despite these problems, a number of intriguing new sources are brought into the discussion which cannot be ignored. These sources are rarely used in terms of their application to the Qur’anic text, not in the sense of their actual discovery, and it is to Silverstein we owe their initial application to the Qur’anic account of Haman.
In what follows we discuss the evidence adduced by Silverstein purporting to show Qur’anic Haman is based on biblical Haman, only when it is clear he is talking about Haman of the Qur’an and not the Qur’anic commentaries. To maintain congruity, we proceed along roughly the same outline given in his article, diverging where necessary for appropriate discussion.
BIBLICAL HAMAN AND QUR’ANIC HAMAN: SIMILARITIES, DIFFERENCES OR BOTH?
There are three significant differences between the Biblical and Qur’ānic Hamans; to demonstrate that the latter is based on the former, these differences must be accounted for. The first is that the Qur’ānic Haman is Pharaoh’s helper whereas in the Bible Pharaoh has no helpers.
The second is that the two Hamans appear in completely different historical contexts: Achaemenid Persia is more than a thousand miles and years away from Pharaonic Egypt. The third is that whereas the Biblical Haman is integral to the story of Mordecai and Esther at Ahasuerus’s court, the Qur’anic Haman is completely divorced from the Book of Esther context and no other figures from the Book of Esther appear in the Qur’ān.
The first of Silverstein’s proposed obstacles turns out on closer inspection to be ineligible and, therefore, not a difference that needs to be accounted for. He says, “The first difference is the easiest to settle: although a comparison between the biblical and Qur’ānic Pharaohs indicates that only in the Qur’ān is Pharaoh supported by helpers, …”
This is incorrect. The biblical Pharaoh is supported by counsellors as a cursory reading of the book of Exodus would confirm. Perhaps Silverstein meant to say that Pharaoh did have ‘helpers’ but that they were not named in the Bible and since the Qur’an names a ‘helper’, i.e., Haman, one must therefore look to see at what point in history the biblical Pharaoh was assigned named ‘helpers.
Weighing against this possibility is the next part of his sentence, “… already in Late Antique monotheistic circles the biblical Pharaoh was widely believed to have had henchmen.”, which indicates that it is the mere presence of ‘henchmen’ that is significant and not the fact that they were named.
Thus, he is able to find an invented ‘missing link’, and, resultantly, sees the appearance of Haman as Pharaoh’s ‘helper’ in the Qur’an through the following three stage process:
- Pharaoh had no helpers in the Bible.
- Already in late-antique monotheistic circles biblical Pharaoh is given ‘henchmen’.
- The Qur’anic account of Pharaoh’s helper (i.e., Haman) emerges from the biblical account via the aforementioned step.
We have already shown the first stage is wrong. Oddly enough, the reference cited by Silverstein states Pharaoh did have helpers! Kugel calls them “close advisers”  and goes on to say, “Now, it is noteworthy that in the biblical account, the unnamed counsellors or wizards of Pharaoh do more than merely give advice…”.
What Kugel does is that he gives a list of references to the names of biblical Pharaoh’s advisers as they appeared in texts dating from antiquity onward. Silverstein has misjudged the nature of the biblical evidence and confuses the matter by connecting the Qur’anic account to the biblical narrative via late antique texts that are unnecessary. Furthermore, it should also be noted that none of these named helpers given by Kugel as cited by Silverstein are called Haman or derived from Haman.
If the Qur’anic account emerged in this context as is confidently stated, then why do none of the five names mentioned, Jannes, Jambres, Balaam, Job and Jethro appear in the Qur’anic narrative? Though it may seem one is assisting Silverstein by reducing the number of differences required to make a connection, the unnecessary inclusion of supposed differences that are quickly and easily accounted for can give a misleading impression.
THE RULER OF ANCIENT EGYPT IN THE QUR’ANIC STORY OF JOSEPH AND MOSES
The first real difference to which we now turn our attention (i.e., Silverstein’s second difference) is the completely different historical context of biblical Haman and Qur’anic Haman. The Qur’anic account places the narrative in Pharaonic Egypt while the biblical account places the narrative in Achaemenid Persia – more or less 1,000 miles and years away.
Silverstein adopts a two-step approach to resolve these obstacles. In reverse, the second step aims to show that there was a genealogical relationship between Esther’s Haman and the Qur’anic Pharaoh. We have already discussed the second step earlier and have shown the analysis there has no foundation in the actual Qur’anic narrative.
Step one aims to show there was a literary relationship between the Book of Esther and biblical descriptions of Pharaoh’s court – a point which is very capably demonstrated. The courts of Ahasuerus and Pharaoh were associated beginning from the time the author of the Book of Esther penned his work and to subsequent generations of Jews all the way to modern biblical scholars.
The Pharaonic episode Silverstein says influenced the author of the Book of Esther was the story of Joseph, providing numerous examples in the process. Additionally, he informs the reader this is also the conclusion adopted by modern biblical scholars.
However, the Haman of the Qur’an is not associated with the Egyptian court of Joseph, a story that is narrated in sūrah Yūsuf, rather it is the Egyptian court of Moses to which he is associated. Silverstein immediately recognises this problem but relegates the discussion to a footnote!
To counter the evidence provided in the Qur’an, he turns to Qur’anic commentaries and shows at least one commentator believed the Pharaoh at the time of Joseph and Moses in the Qur’an was actually one and the same person – a statement he considers ‘noteworthy’. But the Qur’an never mentions any character called Pharaoh in Joseph’s time, rather the Egyptian ruler is consistently referred to as ‘King’.
A contextual reading of the episodes of Joseph and Moses narrated in the Qur’an unequivocally shows we are dealing with two different historical periods. There are no details which connect one narrative to the other. The evidence of some commentators may be ‘noteworthy’ in the sense they support Silverstein’s reading, but if one is interested in what the Qur’an has to say for itself, the significance is lost.
Furthermore, we believe there is significance in the way which the Qur’an refers to the Egyptian ruler in Joseph and Moses time, ‘King’ and ‘Pharaoh’, respectively, something not considered by Silverstein. The rulers of ancient Egypt during the time of Abraham, Joseph and Moses are constantly addressed with the title ‘Pharaoh’ in the Bible.
The Qur’an, however, differs from the Bible: the sovereign of Egypt who was a contemporary of Joseph is named ‘King’ (Arabic, malik); whereas the Bible has named him ‘Pharaoh’. As for the king who ruled during the time of Moses the Qur’an repeatedly calls him ‘Pharaoh’ (Arabic, firʿawn).
According to modern linguist research the word ‘Pharaoh’ comes from the Egyptian per-aa, meaning the ‘Great House’ and originally referred to the palace rather than the king himself.
The word was used by the writers of the Old Testament and has since become a widely adopted title for all the kings of Egypt. However, the Egyptians did not call their ruler ‘Pharaoh’ until the 18th Dynasty (c. 1552–1295 BC) in the New Kingdom Period. In the language of the hieroglyphs, ‘Pharaoh’ was first used to refer to the king during the reign of Amenhophis IV (c. 1352–1338 BC).
We know that such a designation was correct in the time of Moses but the use of the word Pharaoh in the story of Joseph is anachronistic, as under the rule of the Hyksos, the period to which he is usually ascribed, there was no ‘Pharaoh’.
There cannot really be much doubt that a literary relationship exists between the Book of Esther and biblical descriptions of Pharaoh’s court, and that such a relationship was held by Jews from the time the author of Esther penned his work, until the eve of Islam and after Islam. The real question is whether the Qur’an has appropriated this context for its own narrative design.
The Pharaonic episode believed to have influenced the Esther narrative is that of Joseph’s career. Significantly, the Qur’an does not assume this context or any of its details, but rather places Haman in the Pharaonic court that existed during the time of Moses.
QARŪN (KORAH) IN THE QUR’AN, BIBLE AND MIDRASH: WHO BORROWED FROM WHO?
Korah, son of Izhar, appears in the Bible in the narrative concerning Moses [Numbers 16:1-50] and the same character also appears in the Qur’an. Qarun is mentioned by name four times [Qur’an 28:76, 79; 29:39; 40:24] and is described as being from the people of Moses [Qur’an 28:76] and of great wealth and status [Qur’an 28:76,79].
Moses showed Qarun miraculous signs given to him by God but was instead rejected as a sorcerer and liar [Qur’an 40:24]. Described as an arrogant sinner, Qarūn was punished by death for his sins and unjust behaviour [Qur’an 29:39-40].
As there is another character named Korah in the Bible who had a half-brother who had a son called ‘Amaleq [Genesis 36:15-16], Silverstein discovers an ulterior motive in the Qur’anic mention of Qarun and believes it may have conflated the two Korah’s as it has already grouped the Amalekites Pharaoh and Haman together.
For want of sounding like a broken record, we repeat once again: nowhere in the Qur’an is the ethnicity of Haman or Pharaoh given, let alone they were Amalekites or Persians. The argument here simply does not follow. But there is a more amusing point to be taken from this line of thought.
According to Silverstein, Muhammad or whoever else he thinks (co)authored the Qur’an, is more than capable of delving into intricate biblical genealogies picking out a half-brother’s son and assigning him some special significance, whilst at the same time forgetting to check another character he appropriated (i.e., Haman) was 1,000 years and miles out of place.
For Arthur Jeffrey, the mere fact that Haman was mentioned alongside Korah in rabbinic legends was reason enough for one to believe the Qur’anic Haman was derived from biblical Haman. This kind of one-dimensional approach may have been suitable when he penned his views in the late 1930’s, but much textual and methodological progress has been made since then, and we now have a much better understanding of the chronology of Jewish, Christian and Muslim literature.
The study of Midrashic literature including its chronology is an on-going process still being undertaken today. In many cases where critics believe the Qur’an has copied ‘earlier’ Jewish sources, especially rabbinic texts, it may very well be the other way around.
Silverstein also sees significance in the citation of Esther’s Haman and Korah in Jewish Midrashic accounts though he is more restrained than Jeffrey in drawing specific conclusions in relation to the Qur’anic narrative.
Providing a quotation from Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer that mentions Korah and Haman in the same sentence, Silverstein finds ‘links’ between Esther’s Haman and Korah, no doubt seeking to draw from this the antecedents of the Qur’anic narrative. What is insinuated by the term ‘links’?
If Silverstein is suggesting as previous scholars before him have, that this quotation provides evidence the Qur’an understood Korah and Haman to be contemporaries, then this is rejected by a close reading of the passage (Silverstein gives only a partial rendering) in its surrounding context (i.e., reading on an extra few sentences).
Though Haman is mentioned alongside Korah, the author of the passage makes it clear they belong to different nations of the world and are obviously not considered contemporaries. On the basis of this excerpt, it is simply not possible for one reading or hearing this excerpt to conclude these two characters were contemporaries in Egypt.
But there is something more fundamental that demands attention. Believing the Qur’anic narrative of Haman to have a history, Silverstein does not seem to think it worthwhile to inform the reader the sources he utilises also have a history. Surely, this is a matter of importance given the nature of his enquiry.
For example, the excerpt “linking” Korah and Haman is firmly dated to the 4th century CE. There is no mention at all that the source it is taken from (i.e., Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer) received its last redaction well into the Islamic period, exists in numerous manuscripts that differ from each other none of which pre-date the 11th century, and is not quoted but any other Jewish writer before the 9th century. This problem occurs elsewhere with other texts also.
Moving on, we are introduced to the poet Shāhīn of Shīrāz. The conclusion drawn from this text suggests that Korah had a place in the Esther story “at least to the Jews of medieval Persia”. Though it may help identifying later medieval views of Korah and the Esther story, what relevance the text of a 14th century Judaeo-Persian poet has for one attempting to establish the derivation of Qur’anic Haman from biblical Haman is anybody’s guess.
FROM TOWER TO TOWER: THE STORY OF AḤIQAR AND PHARAOH’S SARḤ
Based on biblical information, many Qur’anic exegetes believed the ‘lofty tower’ (Arabic, sarḥ) ordered to be constructed by Pharaoh was the Tower of Babel. Once again, this statement has no basis whatsoever in the Qur’an and there is not a shred of internal evidence to link Pharaoh’s sarḥ to the Tower of Babel. Silverstein realises this is the case and instead of recycling old arguments, he makes a genuinely innovative manoeuvre and asserts the story of Ahiqar is ultimately responsible for the Qur’anic Pharaoh passing his orders on to Haman.
So, what is the story of Ahiqar? A piece of ancient near eastern wisdom literature, Ahiqar is a work of two parts; the first part contains the narrative, the second part contains the wisdom of Ahiqar and gives a list of over a hundred of his sayings, many of which are difficult to understand. Lindenberger provides a basic summary of the narrative,
Ahiqar is an advisor and cabinet minister of Sennacherib, king of Assyria (704-681 B.C.). This Ahiqar, while still a youth, had been warned by astrologers that he would have no children. When he reaches adulthood, the prophecy comes true, in spite of prodigious efforts on his part to thwart it, including the marriage of sixty wives!
Eventually he appeals for divine help, and receives an oracle instructing him to adopt his nephew Nadin (or Nadan, in some versions) and raise him as his son. Ahiqar is to instruct Nadin in all his wise lore so that when the boy reaches the age of majority, he will be a fit successor. The king gives his approval, and Ahiqar proceeds to instruct his adopted son.
At this point in most versions of the narrative, there comes a long series of proverbs and aphorisms purporting to be what Ahiqar taught Nadin. When the narrative resumes, Ahiqar has become an old man. Nadin has forsaken the admonitions of his aged guardian and has set his hand to plotting against him.
The young man forges letters in Ahiqar’s name and contrives to convince the king that his elderly advisor has committed treason against the crown. Sennacherib is furious at having been betrayed and gives peremptory orders that Ahiqar should be put to death.
By coincidence it happens that the officer detailed to carry out the execution is a man whose life Ahiqar had saved under similar circumstances many years earlier. Ahiqar recognises him and urges him to reciprocate the gesture. The two agree to kill a slave and pass his body off to the king as that of Ahiqar, while the officer preserves the sage and his wife – there now appears to be only one – in a secret underground hiding place.
Not long afterwards, Sennacherib receives a letter from the king of Egypt, offering him the entire revenue of Egypt for three years if he can send him an architect skilled enough to help build a castle between earth and heaven. The Assyrian king is greatly distressed, because he knows that of all wise in his realm, only Ahiqar possessed such knowledge.
Sennacherib’s officer perceives that the time is ripe and comes forward fearfully to confess that he did no carry out the royal death warrant, that Ahiqar is alive and well. The king weeps for joy and immediately sends for Ahiqar, delegating him to go to Egypt to carry out Pharaoh’s demands.
Ahiqar quickly recovers from his ordeal, and goes to Egypt, where he astounds the court by a series of impossible feats demonstrating his superior wisdom. Three years later Ahiqar returns to Assyria, bringing the promised revenue. Pressed by a grateful Sennacherib to accept a reward, Ahiqar declines, asking only that he be allowed to discipline the ungrateful Nadin as he please.
With the king’s approval, he has Nadin imprisoned and severely tortured, after which Ahiqar addresses him with a long series of reproaches. (A typical example is, “My son, thou hast been like the man who saw his companion shivering from cold, and took a pitcher of water and threw it over him.”) Thereupon Nadin “swelled up like a bag and died,” bringing the story to its end.
Armed with a summary of the narrative, what themes are discernible? What social and religious message, if any, does the story of Ahiqar impart? Lindenberger and others consider Ahiqar to be a non-Jewish text, a folktale of a wise counsellor, with the narrative section showing the presence of some basic themes, such as the downfall and restoration of a just vizier, and the betrayal of a powerful person by an ungrateful relative – well documented and widely known folk-motifs.
Theologically speaking, the narrative says nothing directly about God, a topic widely encountered in the proverbs section – though it is the Gods of Aram, Canaan and Mesopotamia which are encountered and not the God of Israel.
Other scholars, who consider Ahiqar a Jewish text, interpret the narrative differently. Viewed as part of a group of Jewish texts composed between the 8th century BCE and mid-2nd century BCE, Chyutin believes the story of Ahiqar, like the other texts he analyses, addresses the major problems of the Jewish populations, whether in the ‘Land of Israel’ or the ‘dispersions.
Thus, based on an acceptance of the story as a Jewish text (the Jewish characters being Ahiqar and Nādin), generally speaking, it deals with the meaning of life after the Babylonian exile and how Jews were integrated into a new country, accepting this diaspora as a natural way of life, not seeking to change it.
The royal court is depicted as a place where there are no ethnic prejudices, concerned only with the desire for good governance. Contrary to Esther, preaching the breaking of national and familial solidarity, Ahiqar advocates the removal of former racial and ethnic boundaries and integration into Assyrian society to the point of assimilation.
One will observe from the outset, in its outline, no narrative even remotely similar to this is recounted, mentioned or hinted at anywhere in the Qur’an. No literal parallels exist, which makes the claimed correspondence between both texts all the more interesting.
Silverstein’s argument can be summarised as follows:
- The story of Ahiqar is alluded to by the book of Tobit.
- Certain versions of the book of Tobit substituted Haman for Nādān.
- These versions of Tobit circulated in 7th century Arabia.
- The Qur’an has retained the corrupted form of Nādān (i.e., Haman) from versions of Tobit and connected it with the original story of Ahiqar, remembering Nādān had initially been asked to construct the lofty tower whilst deliberately setting aside Ahiqar – the one who actually built the lofty tower.
This way of formulating the problem and proceeding through the evidence is open to a number of objections. Firstly, we must deal with the unsatisfactory manner of Silverstein’s presentation and discussion of the text. Silverstein introduces the Ahiqar narrative as being extremely popular from the Achaemenid period until the Middle Ages. A footnote is provided informing us an Aramaic version of the story existed in documents from Elephantine dated to the 5th century BCE.
Next, we move straight into a description of the narrative section dealing with Egypt and subsequently Pharaoh’s challenge to construct a lofty tower. We are thus perhaps unwittingly presented with a unified narrative from the time of the Elephantine text, to the book of Tobit and onward until the Middle Ages. But there is a major problem. Silverstein has not taken this part of the narrative or even this entire narrative section from the Aramaic text because it does not exist in the Aramaic text.
The Aramaic story of Ahiqar does not contain the Egyptian narrative section of the text, from where the passage of the construction of the lofty tower is located. The final narrative event extant in the Aramaic text is when Ahiqar is hidden and the king is deceived (see paragraph three in summary given above). Lindenberger explains,
(At this point, [i.e., Ahiqar is hidden and the king is deceived] the narrative breaks off. According to later versions, when the king of Egypt hears that Ahiqar is dead, he writes the Assyrian monarch challenging him to send a wise man who can answer a series of riddles and supervise the construction of a palace between heaven and earth. Nadin declares that not even the gods themselves could meet the challenge…
It cannot be ascertained how much of this was included in the Elephantine version. No doubt it was much shorter.
The surviving fragments of the Aram. Text have no trace of the Egyptian episode, and there may have originally been only a rather brief statement of Ahiqar’s rehabilitation and the disgrace and punishment of his adopted son.)
Portraying events in Nineveh beginning in the eighth centruy BCE, though actually composed around five centuries later, Tobit has been described as, “a delightful story of the afflictions of a pious Israelite [Tobit] and the adventures of his dutiful son [Tobiah], who makes a journey in the company of a disguised angel [Raphael] and returns with a bride [Hannah] and the means to restore the father’s health and wealth.”
Considered canonical by Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Protestants reject the book of Tobit as apocryphal. Chronologically, it is the next source to mention Ahiqar – again the Egyptian narrative elements of the text are nowhere to be found. So from where has Silverstein obtained the statement regarding the construction of the lofty tower?
This statement comes from much later and more elaborate versions existing in a variety of languages, the most important translations being Syriac, Arabic and Armenian. These versions exist in manuscripts none of which can be dated before the 12th – 13th century CE. What is the relationship between the narrative and the sayings in the Aramaic story of Ahiqar? Lindenberger explains,
In the Elephantine text, the sayings were evidently not integrated into the narrative at all. They seem to have been simply collected at the end without any explicit link to the story. The version which lies behind the Life of Aesop represents an intermediate stage in the integration of the sayings and the narrative, and even in the late versions there is an artificiality about the position of the sayings.
A number of the reproaches at the end are quite inappropriate to the literary context in which they are placed, and some sayings found in the first collection in one version appear in the second collection in another.
Taking this into account, along with the fact that the wisdom portion of the Elephantine text is written in a slightly different dialect from the narrative (see below), it is evident that in dealing with questions of date, provenance, and historical background, the two parts of the text must be treated separately.
The Greek Life of Aesop version G (chapters 101-123) is the earliest source in which we find a retelling of part of the Ahiqar story modelled on the Egyptian narrative section that includes the king’s challenge to build a tower between heaven and earth.
A piece of ancient popular literature, the story recounts the career of a hero (i.e., Aesop), a slave of humble origins, rising to a position of great honour before being moved to kill himself after a successful plot concocted by his enemies comes to fruition; subsequently he is vindicated after his death and is venerated as a hero.
The text was composed or rewritten around the second century CE and, therefore, pre-dates the rise of Islam. Though the narrative outline is more or less derived from the story of Ahiqar, the entire narrative is transposed into a Greek context with different names, places and kings. So it is clear the Qur’an cannot be taking its information from here. The Qur’anic Haman is not linguistically equivalent to Ahiqar or Nādin which leads us to the issue of textual emendation.
The Aramaic text from Elephantine spells the name commonly vocalised as Nādin in English translations, נדן (n.d.n). Silverstein claims such a vocalisation of נדן “appears random”. This is not the case. Nādin is a hypocoristicon of an Assyrian name derived from the Akkadian verb nadānu, meaning “(some god) gives”. The name Nādin is fairly common during the neo-Assyrian period and thus follows a frequent type in Akkadian onomastics.
These are the reasons why it has become the commonly accepted rendering of the Aramaic name. Silverstein goes on to say it is “crucial” that the Syriac and Arabic versions preserve the name Nādān. The reasons for arguing in this manner become obvious as one reads on. Sharing the same C1āC2āC3 pattern, he argues the book of Tobit’s author (intentionally?) corrupted the word Nādān to Haman.
It is important to note the appearance of Nādin spelt as [H]aman occurs just twice in only one verse (14:10) of the book of Tobit and even then only in some versions. One will already be aware of the stumbling block indicated by the square brackets: the spelling of the character named in this particular part of the verse is attested in a variety of different ways according to the extant manuscript evidence for Tobit 14:10.
Dead Sea Scroll 4QTobd has ndn, Göttingen critical edition GII (including codex Sinaiticus) has nadab, Old Latin manuscripts have nabad/t/th/l, Göttingen critical edition GI has aman, codex Vaticanus and Armenian manuscripts have adam.
Though spelt “[H]aman” in some ancient and modern translations of Tobit 14:10, Silverstein argues for a corruption on the basis of his own historical reconstruction by reading the personage of Esther’s Haman into Tobit’s Aman (NB. Spelt this way in some versions and found in a single verse only).
He says his reconstruction becomes all the more likely when one looks five verses ahead where one finds mention of (Esther’s) Ahasuerus (majority of manuscripts). Should it not suffice one to look only two words ahead in the immediate context in the same verse where one finds mention of Ahiqar, to realise that it is Nadin the Book of Tobit’s author has in mind and not Esther’s Haman?
Brockington did something similar and argued Aman was probably a deliberate corruption of Adam which occurs in codex Vaticanus. He said the corruption to Aman “was probably made to associate him with the villain of the Book of Esther.” Following Brockington’s reasoning, one could just as easily argue Aman and Adam are scribal errors with no theological significance.
Even more recently an analysis of Tobit 14:10 and its intertextual parallels, noting the variety of ways the name was spelt, makes no mention the author of this verse had the Book of Esther’s Haman and/or its story in mind; Di Lella suggests it is the Psalms that are significant here.
Out of numerous ways Nādin has been corrupted in the later versions of Tobit in all the verses that it is found, Silverstein has discarded the commonly accepted vocalisation Nādin and picked the most similar sounding name to Haman he could find in the versions, i.e., Aman, occurring twice in one verse.
He then read into Aman the name and personage of Haman, violating the immediate context of the verse, and subsequently postulated this was only version circulating in Arabia on the eve of Islam.
This strikes one as a conclusion in search of evidence. Joining all this information together, let us step through the highly improbable historical reconstruction that results from Silverstein’s chain of events.
- The author of the Qur’an was familiar with the story of Ahiqar in so far as Pharaoh’s challenge to the Assyrians to build him a tower between heaven and earth.
- Knowing Ahiqar eventually built this tower, the author of the Qur’an instead preferred the character Nādin to build the tower for its version, because he was asked first.
- The author was also familiar with the story of Ahiqar narrated in certain versions of Tobit. This version did not contain Pharaoh’s challenge to build the tower or indeed the entire section from where it is taken.
- Based on a version of Tobit in common circulation in Arabia on the eve of Qur’an, the author chose the character Haman – spelt many different ways in different versions – and discarded the rest of the Ahiqar story found in Tobit.
- Finally, he joined the name Haman back into the incident in the Ahiqar narrative previously modified and then inserted it into the master Moses/Pharaoh Qur’anic narrative.
If the book of Tobit does not contain the challenge of the Pharaoh / King to build a tower between heaven and earth why even bother mentioning it? Picking out one verse from certain versions, it was the only way Silverstein could explain the change of name from Nādin / Nādān to Haman, whilst maintaining a connection to the story of Ahiqar.
The fact that no other part of narrative in the Aramaic Ahiqar, Life of Aesop’s Ahiqar, Book of Tobit’s Ahiqar or later versions’ Ahiqar find their way into the Moses/Pharaoh narrative in the Qur’an suggests they were never a basis for the story in the first place.
We now reach the third (or second actual) difference in Silverstein’s list of differences that he believed needed to be accounted for before he anticipates his conclusion that Qur’anic Haman was derived from biblical Haman. In terms of compatibility, this is perhaps the strongest argument made by Silverstein.
FOR EVERY STORY, A VILLAIN NAMED HAMAN
Silverstein argues the Book of Tobit and other evidence suggests Haman should be viewed as an ahistorical figure in pre-Islamic times, a ‘bad guy’ who could dip in and out of literary contexts as desired. We have already shown that the name Aman is spelt this way only in certain versions of Tobit, and in just one verse 14:10, which some scholars have read into the personage of Haman.
It could just as easily be a scribal error with no theological overtones, as the large number of other ‘corrupted’ spellings recorded in the manuscripts suggests. Recent analysis of this verse and its intertextual parallels suggests it is the Psalms that play a primary role in understanding this verse and not the Book of Esther and its characters. Silverstein seeks to develop his idea – Haman existing as a topos in near eastern literatures – by looking at the post-Islamic usage of Haman.
This, of course, could not have served as the basis for the Qur’anic depiction of Haman and so we move on to the alleged pre-Islamic evidence. Along with the Babylonian Talmud, the first Targum to the Book of Esther is mentioned as constituting the pre-Islamic evidence. Modern scholarship dates the Targums of Esther to the 7th – 8th century at the earliest so this document cannot be conclusively dated to pre-Islamic times and is very likely post-Islamic.
In terms of documentary sources, one of the earliest if not the earliest extant manuscript for any Targum of Esther was found in the Cambridge Genizah collection (from Cairo Genizah) and is dated to the 10-11th century CE. We are not seeking to deny the Book of Esther’s Haman existed as a topos in early Jewish literature pre-dating Islam, which may or may not be the case.
The problem arises as this whole line of thought is predicated on and consequently developed based on the assumption that Qur’anic Haman is derived from biblical Haman which, on the basis of the evidence presented, we have shown not to be the case. Methodologically speaking, it is thus not a truly independent way of interpreting the evidence.
Navigating our way past the 14th century Judaeo-Persian poet who pops up yet again, it is necessary to comment on a curious piece of evidence admitted by Silverstein, a Persian popular romance named Samak-e ʿAyyār. So sure is he of the text, it forms an integral part of his overall conclusion where he states the text took part in the evolution of Haman from the Bible to the Qur’an.
There are some major, one might say insurmountable difficulties with this assessment. Based on internal evidence scholars suggest the text was written down in the 12th century CE. Gaillard thinks the origin of the story may go back to a period earlier than when it was written down but does not commit herself. There is a solitary manuscript attesting the text which is dated to the 14th century CE and is kept in the Bodleian Library.
To claim a Persian romance believed to have been written down in the 12th century, whose origins might be based on earlier oral sources, and preserved in a single manuscript from the 14th century, took part in the evolution of Haman from the Bible (Esther c. 4th cent BCE – 3rd cent BCE) to the Qur’an (c. 610-632 CE), simply for mentioning a villain named Haman, seems to exceed chronological acceptability.
Which parts of this text date at or around the time of the composition of the Qur’an? What evidence is there to suggest so?
What evidence is there to suggest this story circulated in northwest Arabia around the time of Muhammad? How was this text acquired, in what form, from whom and from where? Unfortunately, these questions are never posed, so one can only speculate as to the answers. In any case, should one maintain this text, or part of this text, was one of the sources of the Qur’an, furthermore detailed examples need to be submitted for proper evaluation.
In his Presidential Address delivered at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis in 1961, the New Testament Jewish scholar Samuel Sandmel lectured on the dangers of parallelomania.
As was usual practice, his address was published the following year as the first article in the society’s journal and it would later become a seminal essay. He defined parallelomania as,
that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction.
Sandmel was of course writing about the Old and New Testament, but his instructive observations are not limited to this sphere of literature. Highlighting the issue of abstraction and the specific he says,
The issue for the student is not the abstraction but the specific. Detailed study is the criterion, and the detailed study ought to respect the context and not be limited to juxtaposing mere excerpts. Two passages may sound the same in splendid isolation from their context, but when seen in context reflect difference rather than similarity. The neophytes and the unwary often rush in,…
And it is in this observation we may identify a fault in Silverstein’s method. He has isolated six verses containing the name Haman and deprives them of their context in the larger narrative. No efforts are made to integrate the Qur’anic Haman into his larger context in the Moses-Pharaoh narrative, and how this narrative relates to the sūrah in which it is found and to the rest of the Qur’anic message.
We are even short by the way of excerpts let alone that they are analysed in isolation from their context. The only literary excerpt from the Qur’anic text ever introduced is Pharaoh commanding Haman to build a ‘lofty tower’. This is the case with almost every critic who has written on this issue that we are aware of. Admittedly, Haman is mentioned only a few times in the Qur’an, but this makes it all the more important for one to search through the context in which he is mentioned relating the parts to the whole, before engaging in a juxtaposition of excerpts and deriving literary dependence.
There are no extended thematic or literal parallels, instead the basis of the argument is a catchword, i.e., Haman, and a loose literary parallel, the construction of an edifice between heaven and earth. Focussing on the similarities and forgetting about the differences, it is rarely mentioned when there are instances where parallels do not exist, or where there are direct contradictions.
In a couple of instances where problems are mentioned, they are consigned to footnotes and are not given suitable prominence. The vaguest of parallels are clung too, whist obvious inconsistencies are ignored. More problematic than this are instances when parallels are read back into the Qur’an from later literature when the Qur’an gives no basis for such a claim. An obvious example is Qur’anic Pharaoh being Persian or Amalekite.
Fortunately, when viewed as part of a larger story framework, the specific narrative section containing the construction of an edifice between heaven and earth found in the story of Ahiqar (read. Syriac version chapters 5-7), does indeed lend itself to a typological study, especially those employed by folklorists, following a predictable literary type well known to specialists in folklore studies.
According to the classification system originally developed by Antti Aarne (1910), then expanded by Stith Thompson (1961) and later thoroughly overhauled by Hans-Jörg Uther (2004), the core section of the story of Ahiqar accords with tale type 922A, simply known as ‘Achiqar’ – a minor variation of tale type 922, ‘The Shepherd Substituting for the Clergyman Answers the King’s Questions (The King and the Abbot)’. Uther describes tale type 922A as follows,
A childless minister adopts his nephew (Achiqar), rears and teaches him. He presents his foster-son to the king, who likes the boy’s clever answers. When the minister becomes old, he recommends the king his foster-son as his successor.
The young boy is appointed to the office but slanders his foster-father. The king orders that the old minister to be killed. Instead, he is saved, and a slave is killed in his place.
When a hostile king learns about the minister’s death, he sets the king tasks that cannot be accomplished by anyone. He asks for a person who is able to build a castle in the air and who can answer difficult questions.
The king searches desperately for his old minister. When he learns that he is still alive, he just reinstates him in his former position. Under a different name the old minister travels to the hostile king.
He lets a child sitting in a basket be carried into the air by an eagle, where the boy exclaims, “Give me stones and lime so that I can start building the palace!” After solving all the riddles set by the king, he returns with a rich reward. He asks his foster-son to be summoned and punishes him with a cruel death.
Though categorised as tale type 922A by Aarne-Thompson-Uther, Niditch and Doran have shown there is no problem describing the story of Ahiqar 5-7:23, the thematic core of the work, as tale type 922 providing a detailed outline,
Numbers 1-4 list major plot events which move the story from its initial problem to the solution and subsequent reward of the hero. Each of these major happenings is composed of a combination of motifs of action, character, setting, and so on.
The primary action motif will be highlighted, within each of the four basic divisions. We should note, however, that certain variations on the motifs are allowed within these major steps. Specific variations on the basic motif, the nuances, will be indicated in the outline of each narrative.
(1) A person of lower status (a prisoner, foreigner, debtor, servant, youngest son are all possible nuances) IS CALLED BEFORE a person of higher status (often a king or bishop or chief of some kind) TO ANSWER difficult questions or to solve a problem requiring insight. (The problem may be posed on purpose to perplex or may be a genuine dilemma. Often a threat of punishment exists for failure to answer.)
(2) The person of high status POSES the problem which no one seems capable of solving.
(3) The person of lower status (who may in fact be a disguised substitute for the person expected by the questioner) DOES SOLVE the problem.
(4) The person of lower status IS REWARDED for answering (by being given half the kingdom, the daughter of the king, special clothing, a signet ring, or some other sign of a raise in status).
If detailed study that respects the context is the criterion as opposed to the juxtaposition of mere excerpts, the detailed outlined given above becomes a crucial piece of evidence providing a basis for the comparison of the entire literary outline of this narrative sub-section.
One will immediately note this outline is not applicable to the Qur’anic narrative of Moses and Pharaoh, and therefore, is certainly not applicable to the narrative sub-section dealing with the construction of the edifice between heaven and earth.
Even though it can be readily shown in its present state the application of orientalist-folklorist criticism to the Qur’an has not provided any meaningful results, and, that such tale types lack universality, one can usefully proceed on the basis of the structural elements of the story of Ahiqar and the arrangement of its motifs.
After giving a detailed outline of tale type 922, Niditch and Doran proceed to explain how the core narrative of the story of Ahiqar neatly fits this typology,
(1) A person of lower status, Ahiqar, the symbolically dead counsellor who has dwelt beneath the earth IS CALLED BEFORE a person of higher status, Sennacherib, king of Babylon (5:11) to solve a problem which is impossible. He must build a castle in the air (5:2) or pay three years’ revenue to Egypt (5:3), and neither Nadan nor any of the members of court can solve the problem (5:5, 6).
(2) Person of higher status, Sennacherib, ENUMERATES the problem, castle-building, to person of lower status, Ahiqar (6:1).
(3) Person of lower status, Ahiqar, CAN ANSWER (6:2). (NOTE: 6:2-7:20 contains a repetition of the question-and-answer motifs, numbers 2 and 3 in the outline.)
(4) Person of lower status, Ahiqar, IS REWARDED, set at the head of the king’s household (7:23).
Thus, on the formal level – structure of content elements – Ahiqar does share the pattern of type 922. As in other tales of this type, Ahiqar includes a series of trick questions and clever replies. In Ahiqar this process of repeated asking and answering is particularly extended since the wise man must not only deal with his own monarch but must also travel to Egypt to answer Pharaoh’s questions in person. It is at Pharaoh’s court that the long dialogues take place.
The castle-riddle is one among many. The confrontation at Pharaoh’s court needs not have taken place for the tale to be complete from a typological point of view. Ahiqar could have simply told Sennacherib the details of his plan, the problem would have been solved, and Sennacherib could have rewarded his hero.
Yet the story would have suffered stylistically, both from the point of view of the teller and that of the listener. Repetitions in action lengthen the story, intensify the listener’s interest, and create thematic emphasis. Here the emphasis is on the cleverness of the wise man who can answer any question which he faces. Such repetitions are typical of and essential to traditional tales.’
Now that we have a much clearer picture of the context and literary structure of the story of Ahiqar, one will observe Silverstein’s linking of the tower in the story of Ahiqar and the tower commanded to be built by Pharaoh, have no literary connection or comparative basis.
The explanation given behind the construction of each tower, their purpose and their placement in their respective narratives, shows they cannot be connected to each other in a literary sense. Even given the same typology, similarity in structural outline and/or thematic progression, this does not necessarily imply knowledge of a specific source or text.
Moving away from the typological studies employed by folklorists, for example, the invocation-worship-petition sequence of the sūrah al-Fātiḥah and its thematic progression can be paralleled with the ‘Lord’s prayer’, and going even further back into ancient near eastern times, the Babylon Prayer to the God Sin.
One cannot, of course, then presume the sūrah al-Fātiḥah is based, derived, copied or has picked out certain elements, written or oral, from a prayer circulating more than a millennia earlier in Mesopotamia. The context ought to be respected.
Then there is the excessive usage of Qur’anic commentaries and a large number of other sources that clearly post-date the Qur’an. What relevance can such sources have in attempting to prove the evolution of Haman from the Bible (Esther c. 4th cent BCE – 3rd cent BCE) to the Qur’an (c. 610-632 CE)? It is a chronological impossibility. Silverstein is attempting to build up an overall picture of Haman and his alleged transition and so rightly looks to evidence that occurs after the Qur’an to establish a more rounded picture.
One needs to be wary though: it is the context before the Qur’an that is more important in determining what the Qur’an allegedly did or did not appropriate, not context occurring afterward, and in some cases up to seven centuries later. With such a heavy emphasis on context after the Qur’an, one is in danger of preconditioning the interpretation of the earlier evidence.
Moving beyond ‘juxtaposing mere excerpts’ raises further methodological questions. Silverstein’s command of the sources is obvious as he moves with ease from the neo-Assyrian empire to 14th century Persia. It may legitimately be asked if there exist even older sources which may also provide parallels to the Qur’anic account.
Should it not strike one as anomalous, that at no time are any sources from ancient Egypt discussed, when this is the setting the Qur’an places the character Haman in?
This boils down to a question of presuppositions and biases which are not beliefs that we need to hide from view. Silverstein has already decided the Qur’an cannot be describing a real event and deems it unworthy to look back in time any further than the sources he requires to establish his version of events require.
Of course, we all have pre-suppositions from where we formulate our arguments, but this should not necessarily prevent us from dealing with other evidence. For instance, are the stories of Ahiqar and the Tower of Babel the only two parallel explanations open to us in interpreting the Qur’anic account where the Egyptian Pharaoh asks Haman to build a lofty tower between heaven and earth?
These parallels can be found in ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures and is not something unique to those sources.
7. Qur’anic Hāmān & Pharaoh in The Context of Ancient Egypt
Is there any information in the Qur’anic narrative of Pharaoh and Haman that would contradict its placement in an ancient Egyptological context? Fortunately, there are a few cases where the Qur’an ascribes certain beliefs and actions to Pharaoh which at least allow us to check if they are consistent with modern critical investigations into ancient Egyptian history.
The following enquiry is limited to information from five verses in the Qur’an, dealing with religious concepts and construction technology.
Pharaoh said: “O Chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself.” [Qur’an 28:38]
Pharaoh said: “O Haman! Build me a lofty palace, that I may attain the ways and means – The ways and means of (reaching) the heavens, and that I may mount up to the god of Moses: But as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!” [Qur’an 40:36-37]
The Qur’anic verses concerning Pharaoh and Haman provide us with the following information:
- The Pharaoh as God
- The making of burnt bricks in ancient Egypt.
- The desire of the Pharaoh to ascend to the sky to speak to gods.
- Pharaoh had a leading supporter called Haman.
Let us now investigate these statements in the light of Egyptology and primary source evidence. The Bible does not provide any information regarding the above-mentioned statements in an ancient Egyptian setting; nor, as far as we are aware, is it explicitly stated in any secular literature from the time of Muhammad.
THE PHARAOH AS GOD
For all kings, the Bible uses the term “Pharaoh” to address the rulers of Egypt. The Qur’an, however, differs from the Bible: the sovereign of Egypt who was a contemporary of Joseph is called the “King” (Arabic, malik); he is never once addressed as Pharaoh. As for the king who ruled during the time of Moses, the Qur’an repeatedly calls him “Pharaoh” (Arabic, firʿawn). These differences in detail between the biblical and Qur’anic narrations appear to have great significance and are discussed in the article Qur’anic Accuracy vs. Biblical Error: The Kings and Pharaohs of Egypt.
Concerning Pharaoh, the Qur’an says:
Pharaoh said: “O Chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself.” [Qur’an 28:38]
Then he (Pharaoh) collected (his men) and made a proclamation, Saying, “I am your Lord, Most High”. [Qur’an 79:23-24]
The issue of Pharaoh as the superlative god of Egypt is discussed more fully in the article Pharaoh And His Gods In Ancient Egypt. We will touch upon this issue briefly here. God says in the Qur’an that Pharaoh addressed his chiefs by saying that he knows for them of no god but himself [Qur’an 28:38].
This statement can be verified by simply checking the views of the king’s subjects, i.e., court officials. What the subjects of the Pharaoh could expect of the ruler in accordance with the Egyptian theory of the kingship is very well summed
up in a quotation from the tomb autobiography of the famous vizier Rekhmereʿ of Tuthmosis III from the18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom Period. The inscription occupies the southern end-wall of the tomb of Rekhmereʿ and comprises 45 lines of hieroglyphs painted in green upon a plaster surface.
Rekhmerēʿ‘s relation to the king (II. 16-19)
… What is the king of Upper Egypt? What is the king of Lower Egypt? He is a god by whose dealings one lives. [He is] the father and mother [of all men]; alone by himself, without an equal …
According to Rekhmereʿ, the king of Egypt was a god by whose decree one lives. He is alone, has no equal and takes care of his subjects like a parent. This affirms that the officials in ancient Egypt considered Pharaoh to be the supreme god, thus indirectly confirming the statement made by Pharaoh to his chiefs, as read in the Qur’an, that he knew of no god for them but himself. Furthermore, Rekhmereʿ adds that the ruler like Egypt had divine qualities such as omniscience and a wonderful creator.
The audience with Pharaoh (II.8 – 10)
…. Lo, His Majesty knows what happens; there is indeed nothing of which he is ignorant. (9) He is Thoth in every regard. There is no matter which he has failed to discern…… [he is acquainted] with it after the fashion of the Majesty of Seshat (the goddess of writing). He changes the design into its execution like a god who ordains and performs…..
Furthermore, the king was recognized as the successor of the sun-god Rēʿ, and this view was so prevalent that comparisons between the sun and king unavoidably possessed theological overtones. The king’s accession was timed for sunrise. Hence the vizier Rekhmereʿ explained the closeness of his association with the king in the following words:
Rekhmerēʿ‘s as a loyal defender of the king (II. 13-14)
… I [saw] his person in his (real) form, Rēʿ the lord of heaven, the king of the two lands when he rises, the solar disk when he shows himself, at whose places are [Black] Land and Red Land, their chieftains inclining themselves to him, all Egyptians, all men of family, all the common fold…… ….. lassoing him who attacks him or disputing with him…
Rekhmereʿ also adds that the whole of Egypt followed the ruler of Egypt, whether chieftains or common folk. That the Pharaoh was indeed considered the superlative god in ancient Egypt is a common knowledge. The Encyclopaedia Britannica informs us that the term ‘Pharaoh’ originally referred to the royal residence, and was later applied to the king during the New Kingdom period (1539-1292 BC), and, that the Pharaoh was indeed considered a god in ancient Egypt
Pharaoh (from Egyptian per ‘aa, “great house”), originally, the royal palace in ancient Egypt; the word came to be used as a synonym for the Egyptian king under the New Kingdom (starting in the 18th dynasty, 1539-1292 BC), and by the 22nd dynasty (c. 945-c. 730 BC) it had been adopted as an epithet of respect. The term has since evolved into a generic name for all ancient Egyptian kings, although it was never formally the king’s title. In official documents, the full title of the Egyptian king consisted of five names, each preceded by one of the following titles:
Horus; Two Ladies; Golden Horus; King of Upper and Lower Egypt and Lord of the Double Land; and Son of Re and Lord of the Diadems. The last name was given him at birth, the others at coronation.
The Egyptians believed their Pharaoh to be a god, identifying him with the sky god Horus and with the sun gods Re, Amon, and Aton. Even after death the Pharaoh remained divine, becoming transformed into Osiris, the father of Horus and God of the dead, and passing on his sacred powers and position to the new Pharaoh, his son.
The Pharaoh’s divine status was believed to endow him with magical powers: his uraeus (the snake on his crown) spat flames at his enemies, he was able to trample thousands of the enemy on the battlefield, and he was all-powerful, knowing everything and controlling nature and fertility. As a divine ruler, the Pharaoh was the preserver of the God-given order, called ma’at.
He owned a large portion of Egypt’s land and directed its use, was responsible for his people’s economic and spiritual welfare, and dispensed justice to his subjects. His will was supreme, and he governed by royal decree.
Concerning Pharaoh, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary says:
The Egyptians believed that he was a god and the keys to the nation’s relationship to the cosmic gods. While the Pharaoh ruled, he was the son of Ra, the sun god and the incarnation of Horus. He came from the gods with divine responsibility to rule the land for them. His word was law, and he owned everything. When the Pharaoh died, he became the god Osiris, the ruler of the underworld…
However, it was claimed by F. S. Coplestone that the alleged source of Pharaoh claiming divinity, as mentioned in the Qur’an, was Midrash Exodus Rabbah. This midrash says:
Pharaoh was one of the four men who claimed divinity and thereby brought evil upon themselves…. Whence do we know that Pharaoh claimed to be a god? Because it says: ‘My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself’ (Ezek. xxix, 3).
There are a number of problems, one of them quite serious, concerning Midrash Exodus Rabbah being the source of the Qur’anic verses. Firstly, Midrash Exodus Rabbah has been dated several centuries after the advent of Islam. Midrash Exodus Rabbah is composed of two different parts.
The first part (ExodR I) comprises parashiyot 1-14 and is an exegetical midrash on Exodus 1-10 (11 is not treated in Exodus Rabbah). The Pharaoh claiming divinity comes from ExodR I part of the midrash. The second part (ExodR II) with parashiyot 15-52 is a homiletic midrash on Exodus 12-40, which belongs to the genre of the Tanhuma Yelammedenu midrash. Leopold Zunz, who does not divide the work, dated this whole midrash to the 11th or the 12th century CE.
Herr, on the other hand, considers the ExodR II to be older than ExodR I, which in his opinion used the lost beginning of the homiletic midrash on Exodus as a source. For the dating of ExodR I, he conducts a linguistic analysis and judges this part to be no earlier than the 10th century CE. Similarly, Shinan opines that the origin of ExodR I is from the 10th century CE.
The Qur’an could not have used a source that had not yet been compiled until hundreds of years later. Secondly, the midrash simply interprets the verse from the book of Ezekiel and claims that the verse implies Pharaoh claiming divinity. The Qur’an, on the other hand, explicitly states that the Pharaoh proclaimed himself to be the superlative god.
THE MAKING OF BURNT BRICKS IN ANCIENT EGYPT
In the Qur’an, the Pharaoh in a boastful and mocking manner, asks his associate Haman to build a lofty tower:
Pharaoh said: “O Haman! light me a (kiln to bake bricks) out of clay, and build me a lofty palace (Arabic: Sarhan, lofty tower or palace), that I may mount up to the god of Moses: but as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!” [Qur’an 28:38]
It is probable that the command of Pharaoh was but a boast, and there is no evidence from the Qur’an itself that suggests the construction of the sarhan was ever inititated or completed. In any case an interesting question now arises: Were Burnt Bricks Used In Ancient Egypt In The Time of Moses?
The use of burnt brick in Egypt did not become common until the Roman Period. However, there is enough evidence to show that burnt brick was known in Egypt from a very early date. Long bars of baked clay were employed in the Predynastic grain-kilns at Abydos and Mahasna, and, while these cannot be called bricks, they show knowledge of the effect of baking on ordinary mud.
It is impossible that early Egyptians were unaware of the fact that mud-bricks could be hardened by burning, since they could have observed this process in any building which, by accident or design, was gutted by fire.
There are several examples of accidental production of burnt brick. They occur in the 1st Dynasty tombs at Saqqara, due to them having been burnt by plunderers; similar cases must have been fairly common. There is no evidence, as yet, that Egyptians deliberately prepared burnt bricks for use in buildings during the Predynastic Period or the Old Kingdom.
However, there are examples of glazed tiles, appearing in a highly developed technique in both the 1st and 3rd Dynasties. This proves that the Egyptians during the advent of Old Kingdom Period were well aware of glazing as a method of decoration and protection.
The earliest example of the use of burnt brick comes from the Middle Kingdom fortresses in Nubia, in which they were used as paving-slabs measuring 30 x 30 x 5 cm. The next instance of the burnt brick is recorded in the New Kingdom Period, where they occur in conjunction with funerary cones in the superstructures of the tombs at Thebes. Burnt brick as a constructional material also appears at Nebesheh and Defenneh dated to the Ramesside times. From an extensive study of brick architecture in Egypt, Spencer concludes that:
From the foregoing, it must be concluded that burnt brick was known in Egypt at all periods, but used only when its durability would give particular advantage over the mud brick.
As for the less extensive use of burnt bricks in early Egypt, this is more due to the issue of economics than a lack of knowledge. Barry Kemp says:
The widespread preference for unfired soil architecture was thus through choice rather than ignorance.
A factor inhibiting the use of burnt brick could presumably be the cost of fuel needed for firing. Since the burnt brick architecture was known in ancient Egypt in all periods, one can firmly conclude that it was also known in the time of Moses.
THE DESIRE OF THE PHARAOH TO ASCEND TO THE SKY TO SPEAK TO THE GODS
Pharaoh said: “O Chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself: therefore, O Haman! light me a (kiln to bake bricks) out of clay, and build me a lofty palace (Arabic: sarhan, lofty tower or palace), that I may mount up to the god of Moses: but as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!” [Qur’an 28:38]
Pharaoh said: “O Haman! Build me a lofty palace, that I may attain the ways and means – The ways and means of (reaching) the heavens, and that I may mount up to the god of Moses: But as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!” [Qur’an 40:36-37]
Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie in his book Religious Life In Ancient Egypt says:
The desire to ascend to the gods in the sky was expressed by wanting the ladder to go up…. When the Osiris worship came to Egypt, the desire for the future was to be accepted as a subject in the kingdom of Osiris. When the Ra worship arrived, the wish was to join the company of the gods who formed the retinue of Ra in his great vessel in the sky.
The idea of the Pharaoh climbing a tower or staircase to reach the God of Moses, as mentioned in the Qur’an, is in consonance with the mythology of ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh, asks the gods (or men) to construct a staircase or a tower in order to climb and converse with the gods.
Standing before the gods, the Pharaoh shows his authority. He orders them to construct a staircase so that he may climb to the sky. If they do not obey him, they will have neither food nor offerings. But the king takes one precaution. It is not he himself, as an individual, who speaks, but the divine power: “It is not I who say this to you, the gods, it is the Magic who speaks”.
When the Pharaoh completes his climb, magic at his feet “The sky trembles”, he asserts, “the earth shivers before me, for I am a magician, I possess magic”. It is also he who installs the gods on their thrones, thus proving that the cosmos recognises his omnipotence.
We are in no way suggesting it was only in ancient Egypt this belief was held, as Egyptologist I. E. S. Edwards correctly points out that Egyptians were not the only ones who believed that gods may be reached by going up a high building; this view was prevalent in Mesopotamia and Assyria as well.
The Egyptians were not the only ancient people of the Middle East who believed that the heaven and the gods might be reached by ascending a high building; a kindred trend of thought prevailed in Mesopotamia. At the centre of any city in Assyria or Babylonia lay a sacred area occupied by the temple complex and a royal palace.
It is clear now that the idea of the Pharaoh ascending to the sky to reach gods in ancient Egypt exists independently and has no connection with the biblical story of the “Tower of Babel”, which is believed to be a ziggurat.
The singular use and insistence on the “Tower of Babel” as a source of this particular Qur’anic statement appears to be a convenient device for those wishing to explain the Qur’an’s supposed dependence on biblical material, and a lack of interest on their part in widening the historical investigation.
Having said this, it must be added that the issue of Pharaoh climbing up a high tower to mount up to the God of Moses depicted in Qur’an 28:38 has attracted the attention of Father Jacques Jomier, a Catholic scholar and missionary.
Concerning this verse Jomier at least thinks to test the statement in an ancient Egyptological setting and asks:
Here Pharaoh… asks Haman to build him a high tower so that he can ascend to the God of Moses (cf. v. 36). Could this be a vague recollection of the pyramids?
The answer to this question is not certain. Some of the Egyptian pyramids were indeed tall structures. If the Pharaoh did ask for a pyramid to be built, then it was as if he was asking Haman to build his tomb! Alternatively, if it was indeed a pyramid the Pharaoh asked for, then the Pharaoh has proven himself to be a mortal to be buried in a tomb and not the God, as he had claimed to be.
However, there are no recorded examples of pyramids made using burnt bricks. However, there exist examples of several mud-brick pyramids from the Middle Kingdom Period. The pyramid tombs of Senwosret II (at Hawara), Senwosret III (at Dahshur), Amenemhet II (at Dahshur) and Amenemhet III (at Hawara) are the best-known examples of mud-brick constructions.
In some cases, it was mud-brick core and a casing of fine white limestone. The limestone was eventually quarried and what is left of them now is a pile of rubble.
Jomier’s suggested connection between the pyramids and the tower in the Qur’an brings us to a related but important issue. We have seen earlier that Pharaoh, a god of ancient Egypt, would address other gods by climbing up a staircase or a high building. What happened when the ruler of Egypt died? How did he meet with other gods? Did he ascend to them? If yes, what was the instrument of his ascension?
To understand this let us turn our attention to some interesting evidence from ancient Egypt dealing with the pyramids and the royal tombs. There is a copious amount of evidence from ancient Egypt concerning the desire of the dead king to ascend to the gods and it comes in the form of the Pyramid Texts. These texts are a collection of funerary rituals and spells first inscribed on the sarcophagi and the subterranean walls of nine Old Kingdom pyramids.
What was the function of the pyramid? The primary function of the pyramid in ancient Egypt was to house the body of a dead King, his ka or spirit, and his funerary equipment for use in the next world. It was a royal burial site. The pyramid tomb served as a place on earth where food and drink could be brought regularly to supply the need of the ka.
The word ‘pyramid’ probably derived from Greek pyramis. The Egyptians themselves used the word ‘M(e)r’ to describe pyramids, and it has tentatively been translated as a ‘place of ascension’. Concerning the word ‘pyramid’, Verner says:
The shape of the pyramid has most often been interpreted as a stylized primeval hill and, at the same time, a gigantic stairway to heaven. In fact, the Egyptian terms for “pyramid” (mr) has been derived from a root i`i (“to ascend”), thus giving “place of ascent.”
Similarly, Lehner points out that:
The word for pyramid in ancient Egyptian is mer. There seems to be no cosmic significance in the term itself. I. E. S. Edwards, the great pyramid authority, attempted to find a derivation from m, ‘instrument’ or ‘place’, plus ar, ‘ascension’, as ‘place of ascension’. Although he himself doubted this derivation, the pyramid was indeed a place or instrument of ascension for the king after death.
Not surprisingly, the Egyptian word ‘M(e)r’ has the determinative showing a triangle with a base to represent the pyramid (see attach photo).
After death, the king would pass from the earth to the heaven, to take his place amongst the gods and to join the retinue of the sun-god. However, he needed a way to reach the sky from the earth, a bridge slung between this world and the next, a “Place of Ascension”.
Thus, the pyramid served as a place of ascension for the dead king. The Pyramid Texts inscribed on the sarcophagi and the subterranean walls served as “instructions” for the dead king’s ascension to heavens.
PHARAOH HAD A LEADING SUPPORTER CALLED HĀMĀN
Taking into consideration the fact that so far the Qur’anic story relating to Pharaoh and Haman can be well-supported from the point of view of an ancient Egyptian setting, let us now consider the person Haman, a leading supporter of the Pharaoh. Should ‘Haman’ be understood as a personal name or as a title, similar to the Qur’anic usage of the title ‘Pharaoh’? Further, could Arabic Haman be a curtailed form of an ancient Egyptian name or title?
Writing in the Encyclopaedia of The Qur’an, A. H. Johns wondered if Arabic Haman could be an Arabized echo of the Egyptian Ha-Amen, the title of the Egyptian High Priest, second in rank to Pharaoh. He does not provide any evidence from ancient Egypt to substantiate this suggestion.
Nevertheless, these interesting suggestions raise a number of interrelated points on a linguistic, historical and religious level and require a thorough investigation before reaching a judgement. Broadly speaking, there are two lines of enquiry that open in front of us, i.e., Haman as
- a title (or a curtailed form of the same) of an influential person or
- a personal name (or a curtailed form of an ancient Egyptian name) of an influential person.
A further subset of these two lines of enquiry may also be included if the name or title, whether curtailed or not, is Arabized or simply an ancient Egyptian name. The search for Haman of the Qur’an in ancient Egypt must take into consideration the evidence from the Qur’an itself.
We know the following from the Qur’an concerning the person Haman:
- He held a senior enough position to be mentioned along with Pharaoh repeatedly.
- He was put in charge of a very important construction project, indicating he possessed the seniority and skill necessary to see the task through to completion.
- Pharaoh’s statement (“O Haman! Build me a lofty palace, that I may attain the ways and means- The ways and means of (reaching) the heavens, and that I may mount up to the god of Moses” – Qur’an 40:36-37) is related to ancient Egyptian theology. It would seem appropriate that the Pharaoh would assign a person for construction of this building who also understood the matters of ancient Egyptian religion, i.e., some kind of a builder-priest. So, we can surmise that Haman mentioned in the Qur’an was involved in construction as well as priestly activities.
Taking into consideration these three important points, the question now arises as to which period of history of ancient Egypt we should search for the person Haman mentioned in the Qur’an. Our earlier study on the identification of Pharaoh during the time of Moses suggested that it was the time period associated with Ramesses II.
So, we have narrowed almost c. 3000 years of ancient Egyptian history to a specific timescale, i.e., to the reign of Ramesses II from 1279-1213 BCE, which is ~66 years, for the setting of the Qur’anic story of Moses involving Haman.
I. Haman As A Title Of A Person In Ancient Egypt: Western scholarship writing on Haman in the Qur’an has understood Haman as a personal name. This derives from their understanding of the alleged connection between the Qur’anic and biblical Hamans, which is lacking in evidence as our enquiry has shown.
We have shown that Qur’anic Haman in his ancient Egyptian context makes sense when various elements of the Qur’anic story are examined from a historical point of view. In turn, this opens up another line of enquiry, i.e., viewing Haman as a title of a person. Such an undertaking is also supported by the fact that in the Qur’an, the king who ruled during the time of Moses, is repeatedly called “Pharaoh” (Arabic, firʿawn).
This comes from the ancient Egyptian word “per-aa”, which in the Old Kingdom Period, meant “King’s palace”, “the great house”, or denoted the large house of the king. However, in the New Kingdom Period, it was the title used to refer to the king of Egypt. Could the usage of ‘Haman’ in the Qur’an be similar to that of ‘Pharaoh’, i.e., an Arabized version of an ancient Egyptian title?
Such a question can be approached by looking into various lexicons dealing with ancient Egyptian names, whether of gods or persons, and how these names came to be used in a variety of different contexts.
One may be tempted to say that the nearest equivalent of Qur’anic Haman (= HMN, in Arabic) in ancient Egyptian is either HMN or ḤMN in the consonantal form. However, this assumes that the consonants in Arabic and ancient Egyptian were pronounced in a similar way and that the ancient Egyptian name was not Arabized.
Such a straight forward one-to-one correspondence of the consonants from ancient Egyptian to Arabic is weakened by the fact that the phonology of ancient Egyptian (a dead language!) is still an ongoing study and the evidence for Arabization of ancient Egyptian names exist in the Qur’an. Nevertheless, such a straight forward rendering does provide a starting point to test one of the various possibilities.
Wörterbuch Der Aegyptischen Sprache, one of the most authoritative dictionaries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, does not give any entry for HMN. For ḤMN, the lexicon says that it was a name of an ancient Egyptian god, it could also mean a butcher  and there are two other entries which are not important in the present context.
Likewise, Wallis Budge’s An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary also mentions ḤMN to be the name of a god, and adds that it can also be a vessel, natron, number 80 or to praise. As for the word HMN, this lexicon says that it means ‘to work skilfully’. On the other hand, Ranke’s well-known book Die Ägyptischen Personennamen under ḤMN, unsurprisingly, lists theophoric names associated with the ancient Egyptian deity ḤMN.
There are none listed for HMN. Updated, comprehensive and modern Lexikon Der Ägyptischen Götter Und Götterbezeichnungen, an encyclopaedia of ancient Egyptian deities and the theophoric names associated with them, sheds even more light.
The entry under the ancient Egyptian deity “ḤMN” provides interesting information. This is perhaps the most comprehensive discussion of ḤMN among the lexicons surveyed here. From the mass of information provided, one of the entries stands out prominently, i.e., the use of ḤMN in the title for ḥm-ntr.
So, who is ḥm-ntr? In ancient Egyptian ḥm-ntr literally means ‘servant of god’ (ḥm = ‘slave’, or ‘servant’; ntr = ‘god’). In other words, ḥm-ntr is a male priest (as opposed to ḥmt-ntr = ‘female priest’). This means that ḤMN in ancient Egypt was used in the title for a priest in a temple associated with the deity ḤMN itself.
Since ḤMN was a minor deity in ancient Egypt (and quite local as well), any association of its priest with Haman of the Qur’an is highly unlikely.
Nevertheless, this leaves us a tantalizing clue that the priest of a temple in ancient Egypt could have in his title the name of the deity of that temple.
During the time of Ramesses II, the period in which we are searching for the Haman of the Qur’an, the ancient Egyptian deity ’IMN or Amun, as it is called in the literature (Amun is the Coptic articulation of ancient Egyptian ’IMN), reigned supreme and had a large, dedicated temple in Karnak. Kitchen says:
The great gods of the state stood at the head of Egypt and of the pantheon, as patrons of Pharaoh. Most renowned was Amun, god of the air and of the hidden powers of generation (fertility and virility), home in Thebes. As god of Empire, he was giver of victory to the warrior pharaohs… To him [i.e., Amun] belonged all the greatest temples of Thebes.
Did the priests of the temple of Amun in ancient Egypt have as part of their official titles the name of the same deity? The answer to this question is affirmative. Lexikon Der Ägyptischen Götter Und Götterbezeichnungen under the ancient Egyptian deity “’IMN” lists the following examples.
Figure 6 furnishes us with interesting information concerning the usage of the name ’IMN in various phrases found in ancient Egyptian inscriptions, papyrus and other literature. It shows that ’IMN had various functions including being used in the title [‘In Titeln’] for various grades of priestly class – from the lowest wʿb priest [‘Ein wʿb-Priester’] to ḥm-ntr-tpy, i.e., the High Priest [‘Ein ḥm-ntr-tpy-Priester’].
Interestingly, it also cites an example of ’IMN being used in the title for an architect [‘Ein Architekt’], a sculptor [‘Ein Bildhauer’] and a singer [‘Ein Sängerin’] as well.
These categories of people may have been associated with ancient Egyptian deity ’IMN through construction and singing hymns in the temple of Amun. For example, consider the entry ‘Amun vom Ramesseum’ or ‘Amun from the Ramesseum (= the mortuary temple of Ramesses II)’ which refers to the title of the High Priest [‘Ein ḥm-ntr-tpy-Priester’] and the Overseer of the House [‘Ein Hausvorsteher’], i.e., the Ramesseum.
In summary, it is clear that ’IMN was used in the title not only for the priestly class but also for those involved in construction. The use of the name of the deity ’IMN in the title for a priest and an architect is quite interesting as it appears to add weight to our surmise that Haman mentioned in the Qur’an was involved in construction as well as priestly activities. The question now is whether ’IMN is in some way related to Haman? For this we have to go into the phonology and lexicography of ’IMN.
How was the deity ’IMN articulated or pronounced? The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, which do not have vowels, are not of much help. However, the cuneiform inscriptions (where the vowels are written) dealing with a treaty of alliance between Ḫattušili, king of the Hittites, and Ramesses II, ruler of Egypt, furnish us with the actual pronunciation of ’IMN. Ramesses II’s had the prenomen usermaatre-setepenre and nomen (or birth name) ramesses meryamun.
It is the latter, which means “Reʿ is the one who gave him birth, whom Amun desired” that is of interest here and is written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as rʿ-ms-sw mr-’imn(w). The contemporary cuneiform inscription mentioned gives the transcription of this hieroglyph name as riʿamasisa mayamana.
How was this pronounced using cuneiform inscriptions? Allen says that its pronunciation involved stress probably on the second-last syllable in the two parts, i.e., ree-ʿah-mah-SEE-sah migh-ah-MAH-nah.
So, the ancient Egyptian ’IMN was pronounced as amana in the contemporary cuneiform inscriptions. How about the articulation of initial ’I in ancient Egyptian itself? Carsten Peust writing in his book Egyptian Phonology – An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language indicates there is some debate about its value. Its articulation might well have depended on the position in which it occurs, or the time period.
Traditionally, it was taken to be a real glottal stop, but there are also many scholars who think it is more likely a reduced sound like a smooth breathing for syllable onset.
In other words, in most cases, ’I “probably had no sound of its own, but only served to indicate that a syllable began or ended with a vowel” and in some words, it “seems to have been pronounced as a glottal stop or y.” Its sound value is usually defined as a “semi-vowel”.
However, Peust has also suggested that there are no indications that glottal stops were spoken in ancient Egyptian or in Coptic. Thus, it can be said that ’IMN may have been pronounced as amana – the initial ‘a’ being voiceless frictive, i.e., a breathy ‘a’ sound rather than a clear vocalised ‘a’ and is usually written as 3amana to enunciate the phonetic pronunciation.
It must be added that apart from ’IMN being mentioned as amana, depending upon the scribe, it is also attested as amanu, amaanu and other variants in cuneiform inscriptions from the New Kingdom Period.
Before we go any further, a few words need to be spoken about the priests and the nature of priesthood in ancient Egypt. The priests in ancient Egypt were religious and temple attendants whose role remained almost the same in all historical periods, i.e., they kept the temple and surrounding sanctuary pure, conducted the cultic rituals and observances, and performed the great festival ceremonies for the public.
The priesthood in ancient Egypt had the hierarchy with the Pharaoh being the chief priest of every cult, and in theory, had the privilege of attending the deity. In practice, however, since the Pharaoh cannot be present everywhere, the authority was delegated to the High Priest (i.e., the ‘First Prophet’), who was supported by lesser ranked priests who would have attended to offerings and minor parts of the temple ritual.
The ‘Second Prophet’, one rank below the ‘First Prophet’, attended to much of the economic organization of the temple, while lower ranks, known as wʿb priests attended to numerous other duties. The High Priest or the ‘First Prophet’ could wield significant power, and this position allowed him great influence even in secular matters involving medicine, construction, etc.
In most periods, the priests of ancient Egypt were members of a family long connected to a particular cult or temple. Priests recruited new members from among their own clans, generation after generation.
With this introduction, let us now examine the importance of these priestly titles and the significance of having as part of their title the name of the deity of that temple. It was noted earlier that the Pharaoh was the chief priest of every cult and had the foremost right to attend the deity.
Since the Pharaoh cannot be present everywhere, in practice, the authority of managing the deity, offerings and other temple rituals was delegated to the High Priest, who was supported by lesser ranked priests.
The priests conducted the cultic liturgy throughout Egypt as the image of the king and the gods. John Gee has extensively studied numerous statements dealing with the position of a priest and his authority to act in a particular ritual. He has noted that:
In some of the statements of authority, the officiant states his earthly offices that allow him to perform the ritual, in others he takes on not only the attributes of his god but his persona as well, thus becoming that god’s literal representative in the ritual.
Thus for different rituals, we have various statements of authority from priests where they not only assume the attributes of various ancient Egyptian deities but also the persona such as – “I am Horus, who is over heaven, the beautiful one of dread, lord of awe, great of dread, lofty of feathers, chief in Abydos”, “I am Thoth the protector of your bones”, “I am the effective living soul who is in Heracleopolis, who gives offerings and who subdues evil”, etc.
Likewise in the funerary rituals, the priestly impersonators of Anubis – the most important Egyptian funerary god – regularly appear in funerary ceremonies and are styled simply “Anubis”, “Anubis-men”, “I am Anubis”, etc. The priests who impersonate Anubis are seen donning the jackal-headed masks of Anubis while doing the preparation of the mummy and the burial rites.
In similar fashion, the High Priest of Amun wore the ram’s skin when impersonating Amun. From these examples, the significance of having the name of the deity of a particular temple as part of their priestly title becomes obvious. In fact, this was such a common practice and many more examples can be seen in Lexikon Der Ägyptischen Götter Und Götterbezeichnungen under the listing of various ancient Egyptian deities.
One should remember that our understanding of how ancient Egyptians actually understood these ritual practices is not perfect and is subject to interpretation. Shaw summarises the discussion neatly,
Among the many questions that Egyptologists have had difficulties in answering effectively are the following. Did Egyptians actually imagine their deities to exist in the ‘real world’ as hybrids of human and non-human characteristics, from the surprisingly plausibly rendition of the god Horus as a falcon-headed man to the rather less convincing (to our eyes) representation of the sun-god Khepri as a man whose head is entirely substituted by a scarab beetle? Or did they simply create these images as elaborate symbols and metaphors representing the characteristics or personalities of their deities?
When we are shown a jackal-headed figure embalming the body of the deceased are we supposed to believe that Anubis, the god of the underworld, was actually responsible for all mummifications or are we being shown a priest-embalmer wearing a mask allowing him to impersonate the god (and if so was he then regarded as actually becoming the god or simply imitating him during the ritual)?
There is one surviving full-size pottery mask in the form of Anubis’s jackal head (now in the Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim) but this does not really solve the above series of problems. Part of the urgency with which Egyptologists tend to attack such questions probably derives from our desire to find out whether the systems of thought of ancient Egypt were fundamentally different to our own, or whether they just appear so because they are expressed in ways that are now very difficult to interpret.
We have seen that the Pharaoh was both the bodily heir of the creator and his ‘living image’ on earth. Was this aspect of royal divinity also attributed to the liturgical performer (i.e., the High Priest) at least during the performance of the rite? The answer to this question is yes.
The ‘royal attributes’ of the High Priest Herihor are perhaps an elaborate development of such a notion. Herihor was the High Priest of Amun that lived in the early period of the 20th Dynasty. He became so powerful that he was in effect the de facto ruler of Thebes.
Assuming Pharaonic titles and dress, Herihor, the High Priest of Amun, ruled in Thebes. He was portrayed wearing the double crowns of Egypt, something which was exclusively reserved for Pharaohs. At some point in time during his rule
Herihor began to insist that the god Amun was advising him on matters of the state and that as a priest of Amun he was favored by the god as the ruler of both Upper and Lower Egypt.
Thus during the time of Herihor, the High Priestdom had ceased to be primarily a religious office and had acquired considerable temporal authority, i.e., rulership including the generalship of the armies. In other words, the period of the rule of Herihor shows an elaborate development of a High Priest taking the persona of royal divinity.
It was mentioned earlier that from the Qur’anic evidence Haman appears to have been a person of importance, i.e., a senior official, to be mentioned with the Pharaoh. Furthermore, he was involved in construction as well as someone who had an understanding of the matters of ancient Egyptian religion.
We also noted that ’IMN (or amana) was used in the title for a High Priest as well as an architect, which strengthens our case that Haman may be simply an Arabized version of the ancient Egyptian amana. It would be akin to the king who ruled during the time of Moses being called firʿawn which is the Arabized form of the ancient Egyptian word “per-aa”, the title used to refer to the king of Egypt from the New Kingdom Period onwards.
Let us now test this assumption using the evidence from ancient Egypt.
In our previous study it was noted that unlike the Bible, the Qur’an mentions that there was only one Pharaoh during the time of Moses, i.e., the Pharaoh who was present during the time of Moses was the same one who died while pursuing the Children of Israel. Our analysis suggested that it was Pharaoh Ramesses II.
Within his reign, Moses was born and prophethood was bestowed on him at the age of 40 years. Adding to this the minimum of 8-10 years of Moses’ stay in Midian, we have accounted for 48-50 years of the Pharaoh’s reign.
What is unaccounted for is the number of years that the Pharaoh reigned before Moses was born, the period between the conferment of wisdom and knowledge on Moses and his killing of the Egyptian, and the length of Moses second sojourn in Egypt after returning from Midian.
However, the events surrounding the conferment of wisdom and knowledge on Moses and his killing of the Egyptian in the Qur’an are mentioned successively suggesting that they were perhaps separated by a shorter period of time [Qur’an 28:14-22]. As it stands, this period of time is unknown. This should not discourage us in the quest for locating the Haman of the Qur’an, for we know the fact that the clash of Moses with Pharaoh, Haman and their supporters truly began only in the former’s second sojourn in Egypt.
In other words, following the identification suggested in our previous study, at least 48 regnal years of Ramesses II must have passed before the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh and his followers. Therefore, it is appropriate to search for Haman of the Qur’an post-Year 48 of the reign of Ramesses II [Figure 7].
Using the data of ’IMN from ancient Egypt and combining it with the information from the Qur’an, we now ask whether a priest from ancient Egypt could have been involved in construction as well? Figure 7 gives a chronological chart of High Priests of various gods of ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramesses II (r. 1279-1213 BCE).
It is clear that only the High Priests Bakenkhons, Prehotep (Jr.), Khaemwaset, Neferronpet, Wennufer (son of Mery), Hori (son of Wennufer), Minmose and Anhurmose reigned post-Year 48 of Ramesses II. The question now is which of these High Priests were involved in construction and served the deity Amun? This information can be obtained from Professor Kitchen’s book series Ramesside Inscriptions and biographical dictionaries of ancient Egypt. The results are tabulated in Table I.
From the above table it is clear that only the High Priests Bakenkhons (or Bakenkhonsu) and Prehotep, Jr. (also called Prehotep B or Rahotep in scholarly literature) had the title of “Chief of Works”. However, although Prehotep, Jr., held the title “Chief of Works”, there is no inscription from him mentioning what kind of building and construction work he did for the Pharaoh.
This may be because Prehotep, Jr., apart from holding the High Priesthoods of both Re and Ptah at Heliopolis and Memphis, was also one of the viziers of Ramesses II. He must have had such a busy schedule that did not give him enough time to perform extensive duties involving construction, but it is entirely possible that he was involved in maintenance of the temples of Re and Ptah.
That leaves us with Bakenkhons, the High Priest of Amun (i.e., ḥm-ntr tp n ’imn).
Bakenkhons was one of the great architects of ancient Egypt. He is well-known for supervising the construction of the temple of Amun at Karnak for Ramesses II. The main temple of Amun at Karnak “called by the Egyptians ipet-isut (‘most select of places’) – remains the largest religious structure ever created and consisted of a vast enclosure containing Amun’s own temple as well as several subsidiary temples of other gods”. Such a large scale construction of the temple of Amun is not surprising at all.
The cult of Amun grew in importance and wealth with the elevation of Amun to the position of chief god of Egypt during 18th Dynasty (with a short downturn during the Amarna Period, i.e., in the reign of Akhenaten (or Amenhotep IV, r. 1353-1336 BCE), and the extensive endowments bestowed upon the temple by various rulers.
The Ramesside era saw the unprecedented growth of the cult of Amun – the patron god of the state. The flow of wealth and royal patronage of Amun resulted in the growth and relative autonomy of the major temples as well as the power of the High Priests running them, including that of Bakenkhons.
However, not all ‘Chiefs of Works / Builders / Architects’ during the time of Ramesses II were High Priests. For example, Penre, Amenemone (alt. sp. Ameneminet), Paser, Maya, Minemhab, Amenmose and Nebnakht, who were not High Priests, also enjoyed one of these aforementioned titles.
We have not considered them here because of the fact we are searching for someone who the Pharaoh would entrust the construction of a building with apparently great spiritual significance, a religiously motivated challenge to Moses and his God. As noted earlier, the Pharaoh’s claim (“O Haman! Build me a lofty palace, that I may attain the ways and means-
The ways and means of (reaching) the heavens, and that I may mount up to the god of Moses” – Qur’an 40:36-37) was theological in nature, and so it would seem appropriate that he would assign his chief religious’ advisor with the task of constructing a religious building.
In other words, Amun being the patron deity of Ramesses II, it would seem likely for the Pharaoh to ask Bakenkhons, who was the High Priest of Amun as well as “Chief of Works”, to construct the lofty structure.
A few words need to be said about the life of Bakenkhons before we dwell into the evidence from the Qur’an concerning Haman and compare it with what we know from the life of Bakenkhons. Bakenkhons had a very long an illustrious career which began under King Seti I, father of Ramesses II. He was born c. 1310 BCE.
Much of the information about Bakenkhons is gathered from his lengthy biography inscribed on a block statue, now in the Munich Museum – describing the course of his career, from its relatively modest beginnings to one of the most august offices in the land.
For four years Bakenkhons was a school boy and for 11 he served as the stable lad in the stables of Seti I before becoming a minor priest, a post he held for four years. He then joined the Priests of Amun where he rose in the hierarchy over time. He was an ordinary priest for 12 years, a third-ranked priest for 15, a second-ranked priest for 12, and a High Priest of Amun for at least 27 years.
By the time Bakenkhons died he had been a priest for ~70 years and served Ramesses II throughout his reign. In the last year of Ramesses II reign, Bakenkhons died at an age of about 90 years. This is approximately the same age when Ramesses II also died (~90-92 years). In other words, both Ramesses II and Bakenkhons were contemporaries who were born and died around the same time.
Now what do we know about Haman in the Qur’an and how does this data fit with what we know from the life of Bakenkhons from ancient Egyptian sources? In the earlier section, it was mentioned that the Qur’an supplies us with snippets of information regarding Haman.
Therefore, one cannot indulge in an all-encompassing discussion regarding his personality, character traits, etc., though what we do learn about him is not unimportant. Let us list them and examine their veracity against the evidence concerning the personality of Bakenkhons.
- Haman is given commands by the Pharaoh and carries them out dutifully.
- He is put in charge of a very important construction project, indicating he possessed the seniority and skill necessary to see the task through to completion, although we are not told anything more about the construction of the tower or if it was even built.
- He holds a senior enough position to be mentioned along with Pharaoh repeatedly.
- Haman perhaps died around the same time as the Pharaoh as a punishment from God for his unbelief and tyranny.
As for points §1 and §3, the person of Bakenkhons fits very well. He was the High Priest of Amun, a very senior and influential position, and served the Pharaoh Ramesses II dutifully as he says in his inscription.
The Noble and Count, High Priest of Amun Bakenkhons, justified. He says: ‘I am one truly reliable, useful to his lord, who reveres the fame of his god, who goes (always) upon his way, who performs beneficent deeds within his temple, I being principal Chief of Works in the Estate of Amun, as an efficient confidant of his lord.’
Figure 8: Granite obelisk towering over statues of Ramsses II in the Luxor Temple in Thebes (Luxor), Egypt. Photos (a) and (b) taken from two different angles to show the height of the obelisk with respect to the statue of Ramesses II and human beings.
The large pylon front, a kind of triumphal entrance, has two granite colossi of Ramesses II on a throne; originally four standing statues of Ramesses II were also placed in front of the pylon, of them only one survives as shown in Figure 8(a). The vertical niches held flagstaves.
We also learn that Bakenkhons was the ‘Chiefs of Works’ (above cf. §2) and performed construction and erected obelisks of granite whose tops (or beauty) reached the sky, as gathered from the Munich inscription.
I performed benefactions in the domain of Amun, being overseer of works for my lord. I made a temple for him, (called) “Ramesses-Meryamun-who-hears-prayers” in the upper portal of the domain of Amun. And I erected obelisks of granite in it, whose tops approached the sky, a stone terrace before it, in front of Thebes, the bah-land and gardens planted with trees.
Kitchen translates this inscription as:
I performed benefactions in the Estate of Amun while I was Chief of Works for my lord. I made for him the Temple of Ramesses II-who-hears-Prayer, at the Upper Portal of the Temple of Amun. I erected obelisks in it, of granite stone, whose beauty reached (up) to the sky, with a stone portico(?) before it, opposite Thebes, and basin land and orchards planted with trees.
These are two obelisks of Ramesses II at the Luxor Temple, of which one is still in situ [Figure 8], and the other in the Place de la Concorde, Paris. The former obelisk has a height of 82 feet (or 25 meters). The principal entrance of the Luxor Temple is the Pylon of Ramesses II [Figure 8], which is flanked by two colossal, seated statues of the Pharaoh (one is behind the obelisk) and one standing statue (of an original four).
The height of the pylon is 24 meters, which is close to the height of the surviving obelisk. The walls of the pylon are embellished with records of Ramesses II’s military campaigns, dedicatory inscriptions, among other things. Two dedicatory inscriptions of Ramesses II praises the erection of the pylons by saying that the height of its flagstaves reached the heavens.
Dedications on the Pylon (below Cornices)
North (front) Façades.
W. Wing: Horus, Strong Bull, son of Amūn; Two-ladies, the Favourite, [beneficial to his father; Golden Horus, Seeker of good deed]s for him who produced him; King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usimarēʿ-Setepenrēʿ: he has made as his monument for his father Amenresonter the constructing for him of the Temple of Ramesses II
Meryamūn in the Domain of Amūn, in front of Southern Opet, and the erecting for him of a pylon anew, its flagstaves reaching up to heaven– being what the Son of Rēʿ, Ramesses II Meryamūn, given life forever, made for him.
South (rear) Façades.
W. Wing, upper line: <Horus>, Strong Bull beloved of Maʿat; Two-ladies, Protector of Egypt, who curbs the foreign lands; Golden Horus, Rich in years, great in victories; King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Usimarēʿ-Setepenrēʿ:
he has made as his monument for his father Amenrēʿ, presiding over his harim, the constructing for him of a great and noble pylon before his temple, its flagstaves reaching up to heaven, (made of) cedar of God’s Land, which the Son of Rēʿ, Ramesses II Meryamūn, given life like Rēʿ forever, has made for him.
Comparing Figure 8 with the phrases in the inscriptions ‘obelisk of granite… whose tops (or beauty) approached the sky’or ‘its flagstaves reaching up to heaven’ give a good idea as to what is meant. It simply denotes a tall (and beautiful) obelisk or pylon containing flagstaves that had a height close to 25 meters.
Therefore, it would not be surprising if the Pharaoh had asked one of his ‘Chiefs of Works’, Bakenkhons in our case, with experience in constructing structures ‘whose tops (or beauty) approached the sky (or heaven)’, to build him a lofty palace, so that ‘he may attain the ways and means – The ways and means of (reaching) the heavens’, and that he may ‘mount up to the god of Moses’ [Qur’an 40:36-37].
As for the death of Haman (above cf. §4), there appears to be a difference of opinion among the exegetes on this issue. Some opine that Haman was drowned while chasing the Children of Israel, while others are silent. The evidence from the Qur’an suggests that Haman might have met with a violent death as suggested by the verses below.
(Remember also) the ‘Ad and the Thamud (people): clearly will appear to you from (the traces) of their buildings (their fate): the Evil One made their deeds alluring to them, and kept them back from the Path, though they were gifted with intelligence and skill. (Remember also) Qarun, Pharaoh, and Haman: there came to them Moses with Clear Signs, but they behaved with insolence on the earth; yet they could not overreach (Us).
Each one of them We seized for his crime: of them, against some We sent a violent tornado (with showers of stones); some were caught by a (mighty) Blast; some We caused the earth to swallow up; and some We drowned (in the waters): It was not Allah Who injured (or oppressed) them:” They injured (and oppressed) their own souls. [Qur’an 29:38-40]
If we look at the explicit mention of the mode of deaths in the Qur’an, we find that the people of ʿAd died by a wind storm [Qur’an 69:6-7], the people of Thamud perished in a mighty blast (an earthquake) [Qur’an 54:31], Qarun was swallowed by the earth [Qur’an 28:81] and the Pharaoh died by drowning [Qur’an 10:90-92].
That leaves only Haman whose mode of death is not explicitly mentioned in the Book. Interestingly, ʿAd, Thamud and Haman are mentioned in connection with extravagant buildings. Could it be possible that Haman died either by a wind storm or an earthquake? To this question there are no certain answers available in the Qur’an.
However, in the case of Bakenkhons we know that he and Ramesses II died close to each other. Before his own death, Ramesses appointed Bakenkhons’ son Roma-Roy as High Priest in his place.
We are now left with some linguistic issues which may connect ancient Egyptian ’IMN (i.e., amana) with Qur’anic Haman (or hmn, if we consider only the consonants). It was noted earlier that ancient Egyptian ’IMN was written as amana in the contemporary cuneiform inscriptions and most likely pronounced with the initial ‘a’ as voiceless frictive, i.e., a breathy ‘a’ sound rather than a clear vocalised ‘a’.
The phonology of Arabic language shows that there exists numerous frictives in Arabic – the voiceless frictives being ف, س, ش, ص, ث, خ, ح and ه. Out of these, only ح and ه are closest in terms of phonetics to ancient Egyptian ‘’I’ – a voiceless frictive. Arabic ‘ḥ’ (ح) represents a voiceless pharyngeal frictive and this is also found independently in ancient Egyptian as ‘ḥ’.
Effectively, we are now left with ‘h’(ه), which in Arabic represents a voiceless glottal frictive. One may be tempted to consider Arabic ‘hamza’ (أ), the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, to write ancient Egyptian ’IMN or amana.
However, ‘hamza’ is a glottal stop. On the other hand, the letter alif represents a long vowel. Clearly, neither ‘hamza’ nor alif satisfy the phonetic conditions to write ancient Egyptian ‘’I’ (i.e., a voiceless frictive) in Arabic. This may explain as to why the ancient Egyptian ’IMN or amana came to be written as Haman (هامان) in Arabic.
Staying on topic, a similar parallel is Haman (i.e., המן) in the Hebrew Bible, which, due to linguistic considerations, is written as Aman (i.e., Αμαν) in the Greek Old Testament, i.e., the Septuagint. Throughout most of the 5th century BCE, the local Athenian alphabet (‘Old Attic alphabet’) was used to write Attic Greek.
The Old Attic Greek alphabet had the voiceless glottal frictive called heta, written as ‘H’, and was originally used to represent the sound /h/. The latter part of the 5th century BCE saw the gradual adoption of a different version of the Greek alphabet, the Ionic alphabet. After the adoption of the Ionic alphabet, the sound /h/ continued to be part of Attic Greek but simply ceased to be represented in writing in Ionic Greek.
Thus heta (i.e., ‘H’) changed to eta (i.e., η) in Ionic Greek. Therefore, the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible from c. 3rd century BCE, ended up using alpha (i.e., ‘A’ or ‘α’) to represent the Hebrew ‘h’ or ה, a glottal frictive, in Haman.
Summarizing the discussion, we have shown that the name of the ancient Egyptian deity ’IMN (or amana) was used in the title for a High Priest as well as an architect. The position of High Priest of Amun was of great importance and influence in ancient Egypt. Combining this data with that present in the Qur’an suggests that Haman may be simply an Arabized version of the ancient Egyptian amana.
Barring certain uncertainties such as the mode and time of his death, the life and works of Bakenkhons, the High Priest of Amun, appears to accord well with the data about Haman in the Qur’an. Since events in the distant past can be expressed in a probabilistic manner due to underlying uncertainties, one can say, given the evidence presented above that Bakenkhons is a good candidate for Haman mentioned in the Qur’an.
How does our evidence and conclusions stack up against modern scholarship which has written on the identification of Haman in the Qur’an? The earliest scholar who compared and contrasted biblical Haman with the Qur’anic Haman from the historical viewpoint was Sher Mohammad Syed whose article appeared in Islamic Quarterly in 1980.
His work offered an incisive rejoinder to the long line of Western scholarship that equated biblical Haman with the Qur’anic Haman, drawing attention to the fact the former is considered a fictitious character among Judeo-Christian scholars.
This resulted in making any historical comparisons between these two Hamans tenuous at best. Furthermore, he also offered interesting insights into the historical connections between the High Priest of Amun in ancient Egypt and the Qur’anic Haman, by drawing attention to the fact that the former held a very high position in ancient Egypt as a supreme religious authority who impersonated the deity Amun, acted as superintendent of works, head of treasury, etc.
More importantly, Syed also mentions that Pharaoh asking Haman to build a tower to speak to the God of Moses is in consonance with the mythology of ancient Egypt. Despite a good show of erudition, Syed’s article did not receive the attention it deserved, perhaps due to the slightly disjointed manner in which the evidence was presented.
Four years later, in 1984, Abdurrahman Badawi took Nöldeke to task for his statement “The most ignorant Jew could never have mistaken Haman (the minister of Ahasuerus) for the minister of Pharaoh” (mentioned earlier in the article).
His analysis, albeit brief, concluded that Haman is not the name of a person, but a generic title given to the High Priest of Amun. Like Syed, Badawi also noted the powerful position the High Priest of Amun enjoyed in ancient Egypt which not only involved priesthood but also included the head of treasury, overseer of public works and so on. Just like Pharaoh is a title of the ruler in ancient Egypt in Arabic, Haman was the title of the High Priest of Amun.
Since Amun was pronounced as amana in ancient Egypt, Badawi concluded this made a good connection with Haman mentioned in the Qur’an. In the same year, Muhammad Asad in his translation of the Qur’an mentioned in a footnote that Haman in the Qur’an was “not a proper name” but an “Arabicized echo of the compound designation Hā-Amen given to every high priest of the Egyptian god Amon”.
Although such a suggestion is in line with the conclusions of Syed and Badawi, Asad fails to provide any evidence for the designation “Hā-Amen” being used for the High Priest of Amun in ancient Egypt. Writing in 1999, Louay Fatoohi and Shetha al-Dargazeli forcefully echoed the views of Syed without adding anything substantially new.
Revisiting A. H. Johns who, writing in the Encyclopaedia Of The Qur’an in 2002, citing Muhammad Asad, wondered if Arabic Haman could be an Arabized echo of the Egyptian Ha-Amen, the title of the Egyptian High Priest, second in rank to Pharaoh.
Similar statements are also to be seen in E. M. Badawi and M. Abdel Haleem’s Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage published in 2008. Clearly, our evidence, although more elaborate and exhaustive, is closely in line with earlier studies which have suggested that Haman is not a personal name but a title in the Qur’an.
II. Haman As A Name Of A Person In Ancient Egypt: As mentioned earlier, Western scholarship writing on Haman in the Qur’an has understood Haman as a personal name from their understanding of the alleged connection between the Qur’anic and biblical Hamans, which as our enquiry has shown lacks evidence.
Furthermore, we have demonstrated that Haman, in the ancient Egyptian context, makes sense when various elements of the Qur’anic story are examined from a historical point of view.
This presents us with our second line of enquiry considering Haman as a name of a person, whether Arabized or not, in ancient Egypt during the time of Ramesses II. A search in Ranke’s well-known book Die Ägyptischen Personennamen under ḤMN, unsurprisingly, reveals theophoric names associated with the ancient Egyptian deity ḤMN, out of which only one name ‘ḥmn-ḥ’ comes from the New Kingdom Period.
Originally housed in the K. K. Hof Museum, Vienna, the first person to publish the door jamb containing the ‘ḥmn-ḥ’ inscription was Reinisch in the year 1865. It was again published by Walter Wreszinski. This door jamb, now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, is in fragmented condition [Figure 9]. The translation of the hieroglyphs is provided below.
Figure 9: The door jamb of “ḥmn-ḥ” in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. (a) the original door jamb [the left fragment goes on top of the right] and (b) its transcription. © Kunsthistorisches Museum (c) Hieroglyph entry for “ḥmn-ḥ” and his profession “Vorsteher der Steinbrucharbeiter” meaning “chief / overseer of the stone-quarry workers” and dates from the New Kingdom Period. (d) Notice that the “ḥmn-ḥ” mentioned by Wreszinski is masculine.
The information of Inv. No. 5821/5822 at the Kunsthistorisches Museum was provided to us by Professor Helmut Satzinger who prepared it along with Monika Randl for the CD-ROM Egyptian Treasures in Europe Volume 5: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien / Vienna.
Although Satzinger and Randl have dated it to the time of Ramesses II, there is uncertainty as there is no mention of any king’s name on it, and the tomb from which it originates. The object belongs to the lot which the Egyptian Vice-King Saʿīd gave to the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Max as a diplomatic gift at the latter’s official visit to Egypt in 1855.
Date: 19th Dynasty, probably from the reign of Ramesses II, 13th century BCE
Current location: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Height: c. 117 cm; Breadth: 27 cm
Inventory number: 5821+ 5822
Collection: From the Miramar collection (1855–1882)
Inscription in two vertical lines (the left fragment goes on top of the right):
Left: “The offering which the King has given to Osiris, the Formost of the Westerners, the Lord of Eternity, the Ruler of eternal Duration, so may he give anything that has come forth from his table, and (also) the pleasant north-wind, and a good burial after old age, to the ka of the overseer of the stone-masons of Amûn, Hamen-ha, justified.”
Right: “The offering which the King has given to the Western Desert and to Amauni, the Lady of the Sky, so may they give food and nourishment, all kinds of offerings, all kinds of good and pure things, to the ka of the overseer of the stone-masons of Amûn, Hamen-ha, justified.”
Below: Relief depicting a seated couple (i.e., Hamen-ha and his wife) who are being attended by a man. Above them, the name of the lady: “His wife, the lady of the house Nefer-nûb, justified,” and the name of the attendant: “Ka-pu-hótep.”
Dr. Maurice Bucaille, perhaps the earliest scholar to deal with ‘Haman’ in the Qur’an as a name from the point of view of Egyptology, made an interesting suggestion. He surmised that since ‘Haman’ was mentioned in the Qur’an during the time of Moses in Egypt, the best course of action was to ask an expert in the old Egyptian language, i.e., hieroglyphs, regarding the name.
The expert in hieroglyphs suggested to Dr. Bucaille to consult Ranke’s well-known book Die Ägyptischen Personennamen.The latter stated he had found the name ‘Haman’ in it, i.e., the door jamb containing ‘ḥmn-ḥ’ as mentioned in Figure 9.
Although Dr. Bucaille’s suggestion sounds seductive, there are difficulties. At the request of an alliance of European evangelical Christian missionary organisations, Emeritus Professor Dr. Jürgen Osing of the Ägyptologisches Seminar, Freie Universität Berlin, a respected scholar of Egyptology, was solicited for his comments regarding Haman as depicted in the Qur’an and the identification of an ancient Egyptian inscription allegedly bearing his name. Subsequently in July 2009 Osing read an earlier version of our article (Titled:
‘Historical Errors Of The Qur’an: Pharaoh & Haman’, Last Updated: 4th June 2006) and made a number of observations, specifically focusing on our analysis of an inscription which is found on said door jamb kept in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Regarding this inscription which contained the name ‘ḥmn-ḥ’, we suggested the
final ‘ḥ’ was not actually part of the name, stating the remaining letters could possibly be rendered as ‘Haman’. This is incorrect. The interpretation of the final ‘ḥ’ is questionable, but not its existence as part of the name. The final ‘ḥ’ is most probably an abbreviation forming a theophoric name.
We would like to thank Osing for this correction. Additionally, he pointed out that it seemed doubtful that this particular person being an overseer of the quarry workers, usually only of local importance, would have been entrusted with the building of such a mighty edifice, let alone be a close confidant of the Pharaoh – a consideration we had overlooked.
For clarification we would like to emphasis that at no point had we ever stated the ‘Haman’ we thought was mentioned in this inscription was the Haman of the Qur’an. What we had said was that it was a possibility, however, this is no longer the case. For the sake of completeness and to dispel any doubts regarding the inscription, full details have been provided above.
Comprehensive modern investigations into the historicity of the Book of Esther including its characters have shown that it cannot be considered a strict historical narrative. Therefore, it can no longer be considered acceptable for one to predicate their criticisms on the appearance of Haman in the Qur’an in a different historical period than that of Esther, on the basis of the assumed historicity of the later.
The debate has moved past this point and in the process picked up some new sources along the way which are alleged to have taken part in the formation of the Qur’anic Haman. Silverstein has very ably shown the Hāmān of the Qur’anic commentaries was indeed indebted to its biblical counterpart – a well stated though obvious conclusion in face of an overwhelming amount of evidence.
Unfortunately, on many occasions Silverstein equates what the Qur’anic commentaries say with what the Qur’an says, resulting in a serious terminological/methodological flaw. It seems that any mention of Haman that pre-dates, is contemporary with or even post-dates the Qur’an, can be used as evidence against the Qur’an. Based on a cross-examination of Hāmān as depicted in the Book of Esther, related literature and the Qur’an (i.e., not Qur’anic
commentaries), we have observed that though there may be some basic correspondence between the two characters, such as their evilness towards the Jews and their association with the Pharaonic court in ancient Egypt, there are also numerous overt and sometimes subtle differences in genre, plot structure, theme, characters, setting, etc.
Moving beyond the isolation of excerpts, the overall context of the stories and the theological precepts derived from them are so vastly different so as to warrant against their linking.
The more interesting question to be asked is why the Qur’an reproduces none of the extra details given in the later commentaries, details which Silverstein relies so heavily on. These differences are a product of the different religio-cultural geo-political contexts in which these texts first appeared, and cannot simply be merged into one homogenous account. Have the new sources that were analysed by Silverstein able to contribute to the discussion?
There exist explanations other than that offered by Silverstein in his interpretations of the loose thematic and literary parallels he finds. His presentation and analysis of the Story of Ahiqar and Tobit in particular were found to be unsatisfactory; on many occasions’ possibilities were turned into probabilities and probabilities into certainty.
We have shown that Qur’anic Haman in the context which he is placed, i.e., ancient Egypt, makes sense when various elements of the Qur’anic story are scrutinised from a historical point of view. An examination of four specific concepts in the Qur’an relating to the narrative of Moses and Pharaoh (in which Haman plays a part), encompassing religious notions and construction technology, does not contradict its placement in an ancient egyptological setting.
Could the usage of ‘Haman’ in the Qur’an be similar to that of ‘Pharaoh’, i.e., an Arabized version of an ancient Egyptian title?
A detailed investigation has shown the life and works of Bakenkhons, the High Priest of Amun, who served Pharaoh Ramesses II, appears to accord well with the data about Haman in the Qur’an. Since events in the distant past can be expressed in a probabilistic manner due to underlying uncertainties, one can say that Bakenkhons could be Haman mentioned in the Qur’an.
Crucially, the absolute identification of an ancient Egyptian figure with Qur’anic Haman does not negate the need to examine the literary evidence. Western scholarship writing on Haman in the Qur’an has understood Haman as a personal name.
This derives from their understanding of the alleged connection between the Qur’anic and biblical Hamans, which, as our enquiry has revealed, is lacking in evidence.
Biblical Haman is “enemy of the Jews” (Esther 3:10; 8:1; 9:10, 24) and “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” (Esther 3:10; 8:3, 5; 9:10). Nöldeke’s bluntness gets us straight to the point, “The most ignorant Jew could never have mistaken Haman (the minister of Ahasuerus) for the minister of the Pharaoh.”
Those aspects of Muhammad’s career to which even most revisionists would agree upon do not seem to impute this kind of naivety to the character of Muhammad, and portray him as a person making carefully selected choices in a hostile environment, successfully navigating past his foes and engaging in acts of cooperation and friendship.
Yet we are led to believe that Muhammad, implicitly credited with authoring the Qur’an, who encountered and interacted with Jews throughout his prophetic career, especially in the Medinan period, thought it would be best to plagiarise the character of Haman from Jewish tradition and place him in an entirely foreign historical context, a glaring error a Jewish child could have easily spotted.
Reduced to its most basic level the contention is simple: do similar sounding names necessitate a literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction?
Answering in the affirmative, Silverstein’s complex analysis represents a sophisticated attempt far removed from its humble beginnings in Cavalleria and Vivaldo. Answering in the negative, the reply here is of similar vintage.
Appendix 1: Hāmān And the Tower To Heaven: Unmistakable Evidence Of A Biblical Subtext?
Casting aside the vast majority of Muslim commentary on the Qur’an written over the last 1,200 years, Gabriel Said Reynolds believes medieval Muslim exegesis of the Qur’an shaped by the biography of Muhammad has no critical value, and should not form the basis of critical scholarship on the Qur’an.
Not unlike many of his predecessors, he believes the Qur’an must be read in light of and understood by what biblical tradition teaches wherever it can be discerned. So serious does Reynolds believe the problem to be, he says Qur’anic studies is presently (and has been) in a “crisis”.
Dismissing Muslim dependence on tafsir literature as a natural result of their own beliefs, Reynolds finds it more difficult to explain the actions of secular scholars practicing similar methods which he attributes to “academic inertia”.
Writing elsewhere Reynolds says by examining the figure of Muhammad, Christians will be moved to examine their own relationship with God more closely. He goes on to say, “Certainly I, as a student of Islam, have fallen more deeply in love with the Lord whose most powerful expression was clothed in weakness”.
It is not our intention here to examine whether Reynolds thinks Christians or Muslims can fall more deeply in love with God by studying the figure of Muhammad practising interpretive frameworks such as his own. Rather we wish to examine the validity of his approach from a critical perspective by surveying one of his case studies relevant to this article titled ‘Haman and the tower to heaven’.
Divided into two distinct parts, in the first part of his case study Reynolds believes the Qur’an utilised numerous ancient Jewish and Christian traditions relating to Nimrod (including the Tower of Babel) and Pharaoh and integrated them in order to come up with Pharaoh and Haman account.
The second part is concerned with the book of Esther and ‘Haman’s tower’. Here Reynolds simply follows Silverstein without making any independent assessment of the evidence, though at various stages he does provide his own explanations and interpretations.
Kugel’s study on the Tower of Babel shows the ancient interpreters felt obliged to find additional explanations to justify the punishment that followed the construction of the tower. The Bible reports that God was concerned the people would become too powerful, and, along with the undesired consequences that would inevitably follow, decides to scuttle their project [Genesis 10:6].
Taken at face value, there does not appear to be anything objectionable in the biblical narrative regarding the builder’s intentions, but Jewish and Christian interpreters regularly attributed their destruction to their desire to storm the heavens for the purpose of waging war against God.
The leader of the builders who commissioned or conceived the tower was Nimrod who was literally a giant, whose great height along with the other giants whom he led, helped construct the tower. Eventually, God cast down the tower in the midst of its construction. Beginning with the first part of his case study, Reynolds relies primarily on Kugel’s exposition. Unfortunately, he cites only those Jewish and Christian interpretations he perceives to be of use to him while the others are discarded, even within the same source.
This injudicious use of the evidence injures his conclusions. The tower described in the Qur’an is not constructed by a giant, aided by other giants. In the Qur’an, Pharaoh’s intention was not to storm heaven and wage war with God, rather, believing himself to be the supreme God, Pharaoh thinks by ascending to heaven to look for evidence of Moses’ God, he will convince himself Moses is lying [Qur’an 40:36-37].
Neither is the construction of the tower discussed any further or its destruction, let alone the time it took to construct, the precise number of bricks used (length, breath and height) and other information given for the tower of Babel in Jewish and Christian exegesis. None of the epithets of Nimrod, e.g., might man, mighty hunter, so prominent in the tradition, is applied to Pharaoh in the Qur’anic account. One could go on and on but too much space would be required to labour a point which should already be obvious.
When one compares the myriad of details provided in Jewish and Christian traditions (e.g., by reading the original sources provided by Kugel in full, not just the citations) the closest detail Reynolds could find relates to the construction material of the edifice between heaven and earth, namely clay mentioned in the Qur’an for Pharaoh’s tower and baked bricks for the Tower of Babel.
These traditions provide a mass of information, but Reynolds cuts out one verse from its larger narrative at first appearing to support his thesis, but when one reads around the citation an altogether different picture emerges.
Contrary to Silverstein and modern scholars, in order to give further weight to his own historical reconstruction that the Qur’an integrated Jewish and Christian traditions relating to Nimrod and the Mosaic Pharaoh, Reynolds unhesitatingly affirms it is the biblical story of Moses and Pharaoh that ‘thoroughly informed’ the book of Esther, giving the following three reasons for believing so, “…
Once again, the Israelites are in exile. Once again there is a ruler who demands to be treated like a god. Once again the Israelites escape massacre, and their oppressors are massacred instead.”
Is the case as simple as providing three brief points limited only to a macro level comparison? Unfortunately, he makes no mention whatsoever of the many reasons for arguing against such an association. Though there may be apparent loose literary parallels between the two accounts, one must be careful not to rush in too quickly without first embarking on a closer examination of the entirety of the evidence.
In her detailed study of the literary motifs themes and structures of Esther, Berg has highlighted a number of considerations militating against such a connection including,
- Moses does not work through the administration but against it,
- The goal of the Exodus narrative is to escape oppressive rule and control; no such desire to escape Susa is found in Esther,
- In Esther, Jews save the life of the King whereas in Exodus the Jews are involved in the death of Pharaoh’s son.
She goes on to argue that it is the Joseph narrative from where the author of Esther was deliberately drawing parallels. This lack of objective analysis in terms of how the evidence is framed is troubling; the absence of parallels
whether at macro level or micro level, obviously contradictory items and other contra-indicators should not be ignored, especially when they appear to undercut the very point being made. Moving on we are told that it is ‘evident’ the book of Esther and the Qur’anic account of Pharaoh are connected.
But if the story of Esther is told nowhere in the Qur’an as admitted by Reynolds then how can a connection be so ‘evident’? So obvious is this connection apparently that Reynolds provides no evidence for his statement other than giving a ten line point by point outline of Esther he thinks can be most closely paralleled in the Qur’anic account of Moses and Pharaoh.
Even those points mentioned are hardly convincing. Are we to believe the book of Esther is unique in history describing a person who planned to kill a large group of people who instead is himself killed by those he planned to oppress? Other than providing a useful summary of some relevant parts of Esther, it has no value in establishing the
alleged links between Esther and the Moses/Pharaoh narrative related in the Qur’an. None of the specific details mentioned there has any parallel in the Qur’an.
As well as combining material found in the Bible and Jewish and Christian traditions regarding Pharaoh’s tower, the Qur’an has, in addition, also used the story of Ahiqar. The evidence for this is simply an affirmation of Silverstein’s analysis without any independent investigation. For example, Reynolds says,
As Silverstein points out, a connection between Ahīqar and Haman can be found in the Septuagint version of the Book of Tobit. Therein Tobit counsels his son on his death bed, “Consider, son what was done by [H]aman to Achiacharus (Ahīqar), who raised him up” (Tobit 14:10).
He goes on to say,
The name appears as Αμαν in the LXX. Later manuscript traditions in both Greek and Aramaic (reflected in most English translations) have some form of the name Nādān.
We have already dealt with this issue more comprehensively in Section 5 but there are a few points worth mentioning. It is not correct to say the name appears as Aman in “the LXX”. The standard critical edition of the LXX is the Göttingen Septuagint which gives two complete versions of the Book of Tobit, the shorter version GI and the longer version GII. So different are the manuscripts represented by these versions, Hanhart establishes a critical edition of each. GI renders the name aman and GII as nadab.
Being a modern production such editions did not exist in 7th century Arabia so one should also concern themselves with actual manuscripts. There are manuscripts of the Greek Old Testament preserving different spellings as well as versions in other languages.
In this particular instance, Reynolds use of the phrase “the LXX” is too broad and lacks precision. Once more, it is troubling to note that evidence deemed to have no worth for the author’s thesis, though that evidence is sufficient and relevant, is not included or mentioned. Saying the name appears as Aman in “the LXX” oversimplifies the case and disregards the multiplicity of different spellings found in the extant manuscripts.
The fact that biblical Pharaoh acquired certain named helpers in later biblical traditions does not explain why Haman and Korah were the named helpers of Pharaoh in the Qur’an account. Reynolds gets around this major difficulty by saying the naming of certain helpers became a traditional motif or theme centuries before the Qur’an.
Though convenient, one cannot use this literary convention, i.e., topos, to explain why the Qur’an allegedly started using the names Haman and Korah in its account of Moses and Pharaoh. One must envisage how this actually occurred.
Did the author of the Qur’an, being familiar with the Tower of Babel and its numerous related traditions, see that a topos was emerging in that Pharaoh had received named helpers and decided to follow this topos but instead use different names? This complexity unwittingly envisages the author of the Qur’an as an expert in source criticism, able to recognise a topos had emerged from a mass of traditions he was able to carefully examine and understand, before deciding himself to continue this topos.
This observation is too general and non-specific as to have any real function. By the same token the Qur’an’s insistence of the belief in one God, a final Prophet, the Day of Judgement and virtually every other major tenet of belief and history could be attributed to a topos. But labelling something with a term does not excuse one from having to justify and evidence such a conviction. In fact, it would be far easier to explain how none of this happened.
In terms of methodological insight Sandmel’s criticisms seem appropriate here, “[parallelomania] that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction.”
Interestingly, whilst summing up his interpretation of the evidence, Reynolds says it is of no concern to him if the Qur’an got its information “wrong or confused”.
This suggests he believes these events actually happened though not as reported by the Qur’an. Should the Qur’an be considered wrong or confused by default simply because it does not report the same type of information found in the Bible? Interestingly, it is never stated whether the Bible could have its information wrong or confused.
And Allah knows best!
References & Notes
 28:6, 8, 38; 29:39; and 40:24, 26.
 7:103–141; 10:75–92; 11:96–99; 14:5–8; 17:101–104; 20:24–79; 23:45–49; 26:10–68; 28:36–43; 29:39–41; 40:23–45; 43:46–56; 44:17–33; 51:38–40; 79:15–26. This list is somewhat larger than the selection of core passages cited by Wheeler relating to Moses and Pharaoh (7:103–126; 10:75–83; 17:101–103; 20:49–69; 26:10–51; 79:20–26); N.B. some of the passages above can be found under different headings. See B. M. Wheeler, Prophets In The Quran: An Introduction To The Quran And Muslim Exegesis, 2002, Continuum: London & New York, pp. 185-188.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), Volume 34, pp. 285-308.
 ibid., p. 287.
 A. Echevarria, The Fortress Of Faith: The Attitude Towards Muslims In Fifteenth Century Spain, 1999, Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden: The Netherlands, pp. 28-33.
 P. de la Cavalleria (M. A. Vivaldo [Ed.]), Tractatvs Zelvs Christi Contra Ivdæos, Sarracenos, & Infideles., 1592, Apud Baretium de Baretijs: Venetijs, p. 137. English translation taken from A. Reland (Trans. Anon), “Treating Of Several Things Fasley Charg’d Upon The Mahometans” in Four Treatises Concerning The Doctrine, Discipline And Worship Of The Mahometans, 1712, Printed by J. Darby for B. Lintott at the Cross-Keys, and E. Sanger at the Post-House in Fleetstreet, p. 82 (Book II, Sect. XXI). For the original Latin text of the entirety of section XXI see H. Reland, De Religione Mohammedica Libri Duo, 1717, Editio Altera Auctior (1st Ed. 1705), Ex Libraria Gulielmi Broedelet: Trajecti ad Rhenum, pp. 217-221.
 P. de la Cavalleria (M. A. Vivaldo [Ed.]), Tractatvs Zelvs Christi Contra Ivdæos, Sarracenos, & Infideles., 1592, op. cit., p. 137, Note b.
 L. Marraccio, Alcorani Textus Universus Ex Correctioribus Arabum Exemplaribus Summa Fide, Atque Pulcherrimis Characteribus Descriptus, …, 1698, Volume II – Refutatio Alcorani, In Qua Ad Mahumetanicæ Superstitionis Radicem Securis Apponitur; & Mahumetus Ipse Gladio Suo Jugulatur; …, Ex Typographia Seminarii: Patavii (Italy), p. 526, note 1. The original Latin text says:
Onfundit Mahumetus Sacras historias. Ponit enim Haman Consiliarium Pharaonis, cùm Assuero Persarum Regi à consiliis suerit. Fingit prætereà Pharaonem jussisse extrui sibi Turrim sublimem, ex cujus vertice Deum Moysis inferiorem sibi videret: quod commentum haud dubium est, quin ex Babelicæ turris ædificatione dusumpserit. Certè nihil hujusmondi de Pharaone in Sacris literis habetur, & quidquid sit, inanissimam praesefert fabulum.
This translation of the Qur’an by the Luccan monk and his associated commentary was well-received in Protestant missionary circles. Prominent Methodist missionary Adam Clarke (1760/1762 – 1832 CE), an executive member of the colonial-missionary organisation the British And Foreign Bible Society, described the translation as:
A work of immense labour: the translation is good and literal, and many of the grammatical and philological notes possess great merit.
See A. Clarke, The Bibliographical Miscellany; Or, Supplement To The Bibliographical Dictionary, 1806, Volume I, W. Baynes, Paternoster-Row: London, p. 286.
 G. Sale, The Koran, Commonly Called Alcoran Of Mohammed, Translated Into English Immediately From The Original Arabic; With Explanatory Notes, Taken From The Most Approved Commentators. To Which Is Prefixed A Preliminary Discourse, 1734, Printed by C. Ackers in St. John’s-Street, for J. Wilcox at Virgil’s Head overagainst the New Church in the Strand: London, p. 317, footnote d.
 Th. Noldeke, “The Koran”, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1893, Volume 16, Adam And Charles Black: Edinburgh, p. 600. This article was reprinted many times with slight modifications. T. Nöldeke (J. S. Black [Trans.]), Sketches From Eastern History, 1892, Adam and Charles Black: London & Edinburgh, p. 30. This article was reprinted and edited by N. A. Newman, The Qur’an: An Introductory Essay By Theodor Nöldeke, 1992, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: Hatfield (PA), p. 9; Also see Th. Nöldeke, “The Koran” in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam’s Holy Book, 1998, Prometheus Books, p. 43; Also see Th. Nöldeke, “The Koran” in C. Turner (Ed.), The Koran: Critical Concepts In Islamic Studies, 2004, Volume I (Provenance and Transmission), RoutledgeCurzon: London & New York, p. 77.
 Rev. A. Mingana & A. S. Lewis (Eds.), Leaves From Three Ancient Qur’âns Possibly Pre-‘Othmânic With A List Of Their Variants, 1914, Cambridge: At The University Press, p. xiv. Also reprint in A. Mingana, “Three Ancient Korans” in Ibn Warraq (Ed.), The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam’s Holy Book, 1998, op. cit., p. 79.
 H. Lammens (Trans. from French by Sir E. Denison Ross), Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, 1929, Methuen & Co. Ltd.: London, p. 39.
 J. Horovitz, Koranische Untersuchungen, 1926, Walter De Gruyter: Berlin & Leipzig, p. 149.
 C. C. Torrey, Jewish Foundation of Islam, 1933, Ktav Publishing House, Inc.: New York, See pages 117 and 119.
 A. Jeffery (For. by G. Böwering & J. D. McAuliffe), The Foreign Vocabulary Of The Quran, 2007, Texts And Studies On The Qur’an – Volume 3, Brill: Leiden & Boston, p. 284. This is a reprint of idem., The Foreign Vocabulary Of The Quran, 1938, Gaekwad’s Oriental Series No. LXXIX, Oriental Institute: Baroda, p. 284. An identical explanation was given by Jeffery in his Ph. D thesis also. See idem., The Foreign Vocabulary Of The Qur’an, 1929, Ph. D Thesis (published), University of Edinburgh, p. 264.
 G. Vajda, “Haman” in B. Lewis, V. L. Menage, Ch. Pellat and J. Schacht (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition), 1971, Volume III, E. J. Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), p. 110. Much the same thing is said in the first edition also. See J. Eisenberg, “Haman” in M. Th. Houtsma, A. J. Wensinck, E. Lévi-Provençal, H. A. R. Gibb & W. Heffening (Eds.), The Encyclopaedia Of Islām: A Dictionary Of The Geography, Ethnography And Biography Of The Muhammadan Peoples, 1936, Volume III, E. J. Brill: Leyden & Luzac & Co.: London, pp. 244-245.
 A. J. Wensinck [G. Vajda], “Firʿawn” in B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat and J. Schacht (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition), 1965, Volume II, E. J. Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), p. 917.
 See for example Dr. A. A. Shorrosh, Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab’s View Of Islam, 1988, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, p. 209; R. Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting The World’s Fastest Growing Religion, 1992, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), p. 142; ‘Abdallah ‘Abd al-Fadi, Is The Qur’an Infallible?, 1995, Light of Life: Villach (Austria), pp. 35-36 and p. 88; N. A. Newman, Muhammad, The Qur’an & Islam, 1996, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: Hatfield (PA), p. 380; W. E. Phipps, Muhammad And Jesus: A Comparison Of The Prophets And Their Teachings, 1996, Continuum Publishing Company: New York (NY), p. 90; D. Richardson, Secrets Of The Koran: Revealing Insights Into Islam’s Holy Book, 1999, Regal Books From Gospel Light: Ventura (CA), p. 34; S. Masood, The Bible And The Qur’an: A Question Of Integrity, 2001, OM Publication: Carlisle, UK, p. 86; E. M. Caner & E. F. Caner, Unveiling Islam: An Insider’s Look At Muslim Life And Beliefs, 2002, Kregal Publications: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 89; Abdullah Al-Araby, Islam Unveiled, 2002 (10th Edition), The Pen Vs. The Sword: Los Angeles (CA), p. 42 and p. 44; M. Elass, Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide To The Muslim Holy Book, 2004, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 181, note 3.
A gentle, sensitive but inadequate treatment is done by John Kaltner concerning the issue of Haman in the Bible and the Qur’an. See J. Kaltner, Ishmael Instructs Isaac: An Introduction To The Qur’an For Bible Readers, 1999, The Liturgical Press: Collegeville (Minnesota), pp. 134-135; Also see J. Jomier (Trans. Z. Hersov), The Great Themes Of The Qur’an, 1997, SCM Press Limited: London, p. 78.
 Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not A Muslim, 1995, Prometheus Books: Amherst (NY), p. 159.
 J. Nat, De Beoefening Van De Oostersche Talen In Nederland In De 18e En 19e Eeuw, 1929, Purmerend: The Netherlands, pp. 12-21. We have partially derived our information from the English summary given on the library webpage of the University of Leiden.
 English translation taken from A. Reland (Trans. Anon), “Treating Of Several Things Fasley Charg’d Upon The Mahometans” in Four Treatises Concerning The Doctrine, Discipline And Worship Of The Mahometans, 1712, op. cit., pp. 82-83 (Book II, Sect. XXI). For the original Latin text see H. Reland, De Religione Mohammedica Libri Duo, 1717, Editio Altera Auctior (1st Ed. 1705), op. cit., p. 218.
 English text, ibid., p. 83; Latin text, ibid., p. 221.
 A. H. Jones, “Hāmān”, in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur’an, 2002, Volume II, Brill: Leiden–Boston, p. 399.
 Silverstein being one obvious recent example, see A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 304-305. He still believes Qur’anic Haman was modelled on biblical Haman but his methodology is substantially different.
 J. D. Levenson, Esther: A Commentary, 1997, SCM Press Limited, p. 23.
 M. V. Fox, Character And Ideology In The Book Of Esther, 1991, University of South Carolina Press: Columbia (SC), pp. 131-139.
 ibid., p. 131.
 L. B. Paton, A Critical And Exegetical Commentary On The Book Of Esther, 1992 (Reprinted), T. & T. Clark: Edinburgh (UK), pp. 64-77. After discussing the arguments for and against the book’s historicity, Paton says:
In the presence of these analogies there is no more reason why one should assume a historical basis for the story of Est. than for these other admittedly unhistorical works which it so closely resembles.
 C. A. Moore, Esther: Introduction, Translation, And Notes, 1971, The Anchor Bible, Doubleday & Company Inc.: Garden City (NY), pp. xxxiv-xlvi; For a similar assessment see C. A. Moore, “Archaeology And The Book Of Esther”, The Biblical Archaeologist, 1975, Volume 38, pp. 62-79.
 A. Berlin, “The Book Of Esther And Ancient Storytelling”, Journal Of Biblical Literature, 2001, Volume 120, Issue 1, p. 3.
 “Esther”, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1941, Volume 4, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia Inc.: New York, p. 170.
 “Esther”, The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1905, Volume V, Funk & Wagnalls Company: London & New York, pp. 235-236.
 A. Berlin, The JPS Bible Commentary: Esther, 2001, The Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia, pp. xxvii-xxviii.
 M. Black & H. H. Rowley (Eds.), Peake’s Commentary On The Bible, 1962, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd.: London & New York, p. 381.
 L. E. Keck et al. (Eds.), The New Interpreter’s Bible: General Articles & Introduction, Commentary, & Reflections For Each Book Of The Bible, Including The Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books, 1994, Volume III, Abingdon Press: Nashville (TN), p. 859.
 R. E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer & R. E. Murphy (Eds.), The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, Volume I (The Old Testament), Geoffrey Chapman: London (UK), pp. 628-629.
 Rev. R. C. Fuller, Rev. L. Johnston, Very Rev. C. Kearns (Eds.), A New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, 1969, Thomas Nelson & Sons, pp. 408-409.
 For instance see, J. S. Wright, “The Historicity Of The Book Of Esther”, in J. B. Payne (Ed.), New Perspectives On The Old Testament, 1970, Word Books, Waco: Texas, pp. 37-47; R. Gordis, “Studies In The Esther Narrative”, Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1976, Volume 95, Number 1, pp. 43-58; E. M. Yamauchi, “The Archaeological Background Of Esther”, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1980, Volume 137, pp. 99-117; W. H. Shea, “Esther And History”, Concordia Journal, 1987, Volume 13, Number 3, pp. 234-248.
 For a couple of examples focussing on the characters of the story, see the discussion on the proposed identification of Mordecai in, D. J. A. Clines, “In Quest Of The Historical Mordecai”, Vetus Testamentum, 1991, Volume 41, Number 2, pp. 129-136; And of Vashti and Esther in, R. L. Hubbard Jr., “Vashti, Amestris And Esther 1,9”, Zeitschrift Für Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 2007, Volume 119, Number 2, pp. 259-271.
Clines position on the historicity of Hebrew MT Esther is not that of outright rejection. After surveying the evidence he says “no clear conclusion emerges” and recommends the evidence be thoroughly reviewed before any judgements are made. See D. J. A. Clines, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, 1984, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids (MI) & Marshall Morgan & Scott Publications: London, p. 261 (evidence reviewed pp. 256-261).
 J. D. Levenson, Esther: A Commentary, 1997, op. cit., p. 25.
 F. S. Weiland, “Historicity, Genre, And Narrative Design In The Book Of Esther”, Bibliotheca Sacra, 2002, Volume 159, Number 634, pp. 151-165; idem., “Plot Structure In The Book Of Esther”, Bibliotheca Sacra, 2002, Volume 159, Number 635, pp. 277-287; idem., “Literary Conventions In The Book Of Esther”, Bibliotheca Sacra, 2002, Volume 159, Number 636, pp. 425-435; idem., “Literary Clues To God’s Providence In The Book Of Esther”, Bibliotheca Sacra, 2003, Volume 160, Number 637, pp. 34-47. Written from an evangelical standpoint, Weiland’s four part survey is written in an accessible style and provides a good overview of the proposed solutions adopted by more conservative scholars in response to objections raised by others.
 “Haman”, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 7, Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, The Macmillan Company, col. 1222.
 “Haman”, in G. A. Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter’s Dictionary Of The Bible, 1962 (1996 Print), Volume 2, Abingdon Press: Nashville, p. 516.
 “Ahasuerus”, Webster’s Biographical Dictionary, 1972, G. & C. Merriam Co.: Springfield, USA, p. 17.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., p. 287.
 Some scholars have suggested the use of ‘double month naming’ in late Biblical books from the Second Temple period provides a new measure of dating, and have consequently re-dated Esther as much as two centuries earlier back into the early Persian period in the late 5th century BCE. Such a criterion has been examined and dismissed as untenable. To follow the discussion see, D. Talshir & Z. Talshir, “The Double Month Naming In Late Biblical Books: A New Clue For Dating Esther?”, Vetus Testamentum, 2004, Volume 54, Number 4, pp. 549-555; A. D. Friedberg & V. DeCaen, “Dating The Composition Of The Book Of Esther: A Response To Larsson”, Vetus Testamentum, 2003, Volume 53, Number 3, pp. 427-429; G. Larsson, “Is The Book Of Esther Older Than Has Been Believed?” Vetus Testamentum, 2002, Volume 52, Number 1, pp. 130-131; A. D. Friedberg, “A New Clue In The Dating Of The Composition Of The Book Of Esther”, Vetus Testamentum, 2000, Volume 50, Number 4, pp. 561-565.
 Summarised from L. S. Fried, “Towards The Ur-Text Of Esther”, Journal For The Study Of The Old Testament, 2000, Volume 88, pp. 49-51. The remainder of the article deals with which version can be considered closest to the “Ur-Text”.
 C. V. Dorothy, The Books Of Esther: Structure, Genre And Textual Integrity, 1997, Journal For The Study Of The Old Testament Supplement Series – 187, Sheffield Academic Press Ltd, Sheffield: England, pp. 13-16. Dorothy’s numbers are based on the Greek texts found in the Göttingen Septuagint. Josephus in his Antiquities recounts Esther in his own narrative framework in 4,423 words and is 45.30% longer than the Hebrew MT. Adjusting the percentage to recognise the language differentiation, Josephus’ Esther is around 33% longer.
 M. W. Haslam et al., The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, 1998, Volume LXV, Egypt Exploration Society: London, pp. 4-8 (P. Oxy. 4443). The translation and notes are by K. Luchner.
 An easy side-by-side comparison of both Greek versions based on the critical edition of the Göttingen Septuagint is now widely accessible in English. See A. Pietersma & B. G. Wright (Eds.), A New English Translation Of The Septuagint, 2007, Oxford University Press, Inc.: New York, pp. 426-440. For a verse by verse comparison of the B-text with the Hebrew MT along with English translation, see H. Kahana, Esther: Juxtaposition Of The Septuagint Translation With The Hebrew Text, 2005, Peeters: Bondgenotenlaan, Leuven (The Netherlands).
 The absence of the mention of God in the Book of Esther has baffled many scholars. Many of them have given various reasons for such an omission. For a general overview on this topic, please see: “Esther”, The Rev. T. K. Cheyne & J. S. Black (Eds.), Encyclopaedia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary Of The Literary, Political And Religious History, The Archaeology, Geography And Natural History Of The Bible, 1901, Volume II, op. cit., col. 1403; “Esther”, The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1905, Volume V, op. cit., p. 236; “Esther”, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1941, Volume 4, op. cit., p. 170; B. W. Anderson, “The Place Of The Book Of Esther In The Christian Bible”, Journal Of Religion, 1950, op. cit., p. 32; M. Black & H. H. Rowley (Eds.), Peake’s Commentary On The Bible, 1962, op. cit., p. 381; R. E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer & R. E. Murphy (Eds.), The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, Volume I (The Old Testament), op. cit., p. 629; C. A. Moore, Esther: Introduction, Translation, And Notes, 1971, The Anchor Bible, op. cit., p. xxxii-xxxiii; C. M. Laymon (Ed.), The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary On The Bible Including All The Books Of The Old And New Testaments And The Apocrypha, Together With Forty-Three General Articles, 1972, Collins: London & Glasgow, p. 233; W. A. Elwell (Ed.), The Marshall Pickering Commentary On The NIV, 1989, Baker Book House Company, p. 327.
 L. S. Fried, “Towards The Ur-Text Of Esther”, Journal For The Study Of The Old Testament, 2000, op. cit., p. 57.
Scholars are not agreed on the precise interdependences between these three versions of the text, especially the A-text, and posit various stages of textual interrelatedness. Fried’s analysis builds upon the commonly accepted transmission hypothesis of Fox. For a good overview of the scholarly opinions concerning the Greek text including the additions and its relationship with the Hebrew Text see, E. Tov, “Three Strange Books Of The LXX: 1 Kings, Esther, And Daniel Compared With Similar Rewritten Compositions From Qumran And Elsewhere” in M. Karrer & W. Kraus (Eds.), Die Septuaginta – Texte, Kontexte, Lebenswelten, 2008, Mohr Siebeck: Tübingen, pp. 369–93.
 What the average Christian gets when they read a translated version of Esther is another matter. Some translations are an amalgamation of the Greek and Hebrew texts! See J. P. Sterk, “How Many Books Of Esther Are There?”, The Bible Translator, 1985, Volume 36, Number 4, pp. 440-442.
 H. W. M. Rietz, “Identifying Compositions And Traditions Of The Qumran Community: The Songs Of The Sabbath Sacrifice As A Test Case” in M. T. Davis & B. A. Strawn (Eds.), Qumran Studies: New Approaches, New Questions, 2007, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 35-36.
 C. A. Moore, “Archaeology And The Book Of Esther”, The Biblical Archaeologist, 1975, op. cit., p. 63.
 The map is taken from C. A. Moore, Esther: Introduction, Translation, And Notes, 1971, The Anchor Bible, op. cit., pp. xxvi-xxvii. For a good overview of place of Esther in the Christian canon see B. W. Anderson, “The Place Of The Book Of Esther In The Christian Bible”, Journal Of Religion, 1950, Volume 30, pp. 32-43.
 M. Luther, Table Talk, 1995, Fount: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublisher: London (UK), XXIV, p. 14.
 Dr. Martin Luther, Biblia, 1538, Wolff K: Strassburg; Also see Luther’s introduction to the Book of Esther in E. T. Bachmann (Ed.) & H. L. Lehmann (Gen. Ed.), Luther’s Works, 1960, Volume 35, Muhlenberg Press: Philadelphia, pp. 353-354.
 L. A. Brighton, “The Book Of Esther–Textual And Canonical Considerations”, Concordia Journal, 1987, Volume 13, Number 3, p. 203.
 J. E. Burns, “The Special Purim And The Reception Of The Book Of Esther In The Hellenistic And Early Roman Eras”, Journal For The Study Of Judaism, 2006, Volume XXXVII, Number 1, pp. 1-34.
 L. A. Brighton, “The Book Of Esther–Textual And Canonical Considerations”, Concordia Journal, 1987, op. cit., pp. 203-204.
 ibid., pp. 211-212.
 E. Ulrich, “The Notion And Definition Of Canon”, in L. M. McDonald & J. A. Sanders (Eds.), The Canon Debate, 2002, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.: Peabody (MA), p. 29.
 F. W. Bush, “The Book Of Esther: Opus Non Gratum In The Christian Canon”, Bulletin For Biblical Research, 1998, Volume 8, p. 39. Like the vast majority of conservative scholars, Bush insists that Esther is not being read properly. In fact, he thinks the text is being seriously misread and has much to offer the Christian world given a proper reading, such as the one suggested by him.
 This is most readily observable in Christian apologetical literature. A survey of the four most popular encyclopaedias of Bible “difficulties” reveals no trace of a discussion on the historicity or the canonicity of Esther. See N. L. Geisler & R. M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, 2001, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI); N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 2002, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI); N. Geisler & T. Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties, 2004 (7th Printing), Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI); G. L. Archer Jr., New International Encyclopedia Of Bible Difficulties, 1982, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (MI).
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 285-308.
 ibid., pp. 304-5. His position on the historicity of Esther is more cautiously stated in A. Silverstein, “The Book Of Esther And The Enūma Elish”, Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 2006, Volume 69, Number 2, pp. 209-223. He says, “Thus, accepting that the Book of Esther shares a general storyline, assorted themes and motifs, and some linguistic details with the Enūma Elish does not necessarily mean that the story of Jewish triumph over the machinations of an evil vizier did not happen along the lines described.” (pp. 210-211).
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 289-291.
 ibid., pp. 291-292.
 ibid., p. 307.
 R. Tottoli, “Origin And Use Of The Term Isrā’īliyyāt In Muslim Literature”, Arabica, 1999, Volume 46, pp. 193-210. One should refer to Tottoli’s study for the specific ways this term was employed by various scholars.
 I. Albayrak, Qur’anic Narrative And Isrā’īliyyāt In Western Scholarship And In Classical Exegesis, 2000, Ph.D Thesis (unpublished), University of Leeds, pp. 114-131. Albayrak illustrates his discussion with a number of helpful case studies and the views of Western scholarship.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 297-299.
 ibid., p. 299.
 ibid., p. 295, footnote 36.
 ibid., p. 292.
 J. L. Kugel, Traditions Of The Bible: A Guide To The Bible As It Was At The Start Of The Common Era, 1998, Harvard University Press: Cambridge (MA) & London, p. 505.
 ibid., p. 506.
 ibid., pp. 505-507.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 294-297.
 ibid., pp. 295, footnote 36.
 See the standard reference works cited in the article Qur’anic Accuracy Vs. Biblical Error: The Kings & Pharaohs Of Egypt.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., p. 300.
 ibid., p. 300, footnote 70.
 M. B. Lerner, “The Works of Aggadic Midrash and the Esther Midrashim” in S. Safrai, Z. Safrai, J. Schwartz & P. J. Tomson (Eds.), The Literature Of The Sages: Second Part: Midrash And Targum, Liturgy, Poetry, Mysticism, Contracts, Inscriptions, Ancient Science And The Languages Of Rabbinic Literature, 2006, Royal Van Gorcum, Assen: The Netherlands & Fortress Press: Minneapolis, pp. 133-229.
 This was pointed out by Stillman back in the 70’s. See N. A. Stillman, “The Story Of Cain & Abel In The Qur’an And The Muslim Commentators: Some Observations”, Journal Of Semitic Studies, 1974, Volume 19, p. 231. We have discussed a few of the positions adopted by Stillman here.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., p. 300.
 G. Friedlander, Pirke De Rabbi Eliezer, 1916, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd.: London & The Bloch Publishing Company: New York, pp. 398-399.
 L. M. Barth, “Is Every Medieval Hebrew Manuscript A New Composition? The Case Of Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer”, in M. L. Raphael (Ed.), Agendas For The Study Of Midrash In The Twenty-First Century, 1999, Williamsburg (VA), pp. 43-62.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., p. 300.
 This is agreed by Silverstein also. See, ibid., pp. 285-286.
 J. M. Lindenberger, The Aramaic Proverbs Of Ahiqar, 1983, The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore & London, pp. 3-4.
 ibid., p. 21. idem., “Ahiqar: A New Translation And Introduction”, in J. H. Charlesworth (Ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1985, Volume 2 – Expansions of the “Old Testament” and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic Works, Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City: New York, pp. 484-486.
 M. Chyutin, Tendentious Hagiographies: Jewish Propagandist Fiction BCE, 2011, T&T Clark: London & New York, p. 34 & pp. 296-297.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 302-303.
 ibid., p. 301, footnote 72. The authoritative version of the Aramaic text is B. Porten & A. Yardeni, Textbook Of Aramaic Documents From Ancient Egypt, 1994, Volume 3 – Literature, Accounts, Lists, Eisenbrauns, Indiana: USA, pp. 25-53. The text is also translated into Hebrew and English. Porten and Yardeni have re-ordered the sequence of columns of the papyrus based on a decipherment of the undertext (palimpsest) and have thus re-numbered the proverbs.
 J. M. Lindenberger, “Ahiqar: A New Translation And Introduction”, in J. H. Charlesworth (Ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1985, op. cit., p. 498; For similar views on the late attribution of the Egyptian narrative section see, F. C. Conybeare, J. R. Harris & A. S. Lewis, The Story Of Ahikar From The Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Old Turkish, Greek And Slavonic Versions, 1913, Second Edition Enlarged And Corrected, at the University Press: Cambridge, pp. xcii-xciii.
 This concise one sentence résumé is taken from, H. N. Richardson, “The Book Of Tobit”, in C. M. Laymon (Ed.), The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary Of The Bible: Including The Apocrypha, With General Articles, 1971, Abingdon Press, Nashville (TN): USA, p. 526.
 J. M. Lindenberger, “Ahiqar: A New Translation And Introduction”, in J. H. Charlesworth (Ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1985, Volume 2, op. cit., p. 479.
 F. C. Conybeare, J. R. Harris & A. S. Lewis, The Story Of Ahikar From The Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Old Turkish, Greek And Slavonic Versions, 1913, op. cit.; For an excellent overview of the Syriac, Arabic and Armenian texts side by side in parallel columns see, “The Story Of Ahikar” in R. H. Charles (Ed.), The Apocrypha And Pseudepigrapha Of The Old Testament In English, 1913, Volume II – Pseudepigrapha, at the Clarendon Press: Oxford, pp. 724-776.
 J. M. Lindenberger, The Aramaic Proverbs Of Ahiqar, 1983, op. cit., p. 5.
 J. M. Lindenberger, “Ahiqar: A New Translation And Introduction”, in J. H. Charlesworth (Ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1985, Volume 2, op. cit., pp. 480-481.
 J. M. Lindenberger, The Aramaic Proverbs Of Ahiqar, 1983, op. cit., p. 7.
 R. I. Pervo, “A Nihilist Fabula: Introducing The Life Of Aesop”, in R. F. Hock, J. B. Chance & J. Perkins (Eds.), Ancient Fiction And Early Christian Narrative, 1998, Scholars Press, Atlanta: Georgia, pp. 77-84. The actual personage of Aesop is much older and stretches back into early classical times.
For an academic English translation of the narrative section of the G text based on the recently established critical edition of Papathomopoulos, see L. M. Wills, The Quest Of The Historical Gospel: Mark, John, And The Origins Of The Gospel Genre, 1997, Routledge: London & New York, pp. 180-215.
 ibid., pp. 82-83.
 N. Kanavou, “Personal Names In The Vita Aesopi (Vita G or Perriana)”, Classical Quarterly, 2006, Volume 56, Number 1, pp. 208-219.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 301-302, footnote 74.
 “Nadānu” in E. Reiner et al., The Assyrian Dictionary Of The Oriental Institute Of The University Of Chicago, 1980, Volume 11 (N – Part 1), Oriental Institute, Chicago: Illinois (USA), p. 42.
 H. D. Baker (Ed.), The Prosopography Of The Neo-Assyrian Empire, 2001, Volume 2, Part II (L-N), Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, University Of Helsinki, pp. 919-921; K. L. Tallqvist, Assyrian Personal Names, 1914, Helsingfors: Sweden, p. 165.
 J. M. Lindenberger, “Ahiqar: A New Translation And Introduction”, in J. H. Charlesworth (Ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 1985, Volume 2, op. cit., p. 483, footnote 30; J. C. Greenfield, “The Wisdom Of Ahiqar”, in J. Day, R. P. Gordon & H. G. M. Williamson (Eds.), Wisdom In Ancient Israel, 1995, Cambridge University Press, p. 45, footnote 11; J. A. Fitzmyer, Tobit, 2003, Commentaries on Early Jewish Literature, Walter de Gruyter: Berlin (Germany), p. 283; C. A. Moore, Tobit: A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, 1996, The Anchor Bible, Doubleday: New York, p. 292. Based on a number of passages from the Old Testament, Chyutin thinks the name Nadan is probably a “derogatory Aramaic epithet associated with a women’s sexual organ, …”, meant to represent his character as a “villain” in the story of Ahiqar. See M. Chyutin, Tendentious Hagiographies: Jewish Propagandist Fiction BCE, 2011, op. cit., p. 33.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 301-302 & footnote 74.
 C. A. Moore, Tobit: A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, 1996, op. cit., p. 288, textual note t; also see J. A. Fitzmyer, Tobit, 2003, op. cit., p. 333.
 L. H. Brockington, A Critical Introduction To The Apocrypha, 1961, Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd: London, p. 38, footnote 1.
 A. A. Di Lella, “A Study Of Tobit 14:10 And Its Intertextual Parallels”, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 2009, Volume 71, Number 3, pp. 497-506.
 In as much as it was the argument highlighted by a colleague who had read his article whilst writing a book about Esther and its sources, this seems to be suggested by Dalley also. See S. Dalley, Esther’s Revenge At Susa: From Sennacherib To Ahasuerus, 2007, Oxford University Press, p. 218.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., p. 303.
 “Esther”, The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905, Volume V, Funk & Wagnalls Company, p. 234; “Targum Sheni”, Encyclopaedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition), 1997, Judaica Multimedia (Israel) Limited.
 R. Kasher & M. L. Klein, “New Fragments Of Targum To Esther From The Cairo Genizah”, Hebrew Union College Annual, 1990, Volume 61, p. 91.
 A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., p. 307.
 M. Gaillard, “Samak-e ʿAyyār” in Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2009 (20th July), available online (accessed 27th December 2009). The printed volume containing this entry has yet to be published.
 W. Stockland, “The Kitab-i Samak ʿAyyar”, Persica, 1993-1995, Volume XV, pp. 143-182.
 Of all the Presidential Address given during the first 125 years (1880 – 2005), Sandmel’s address was selected along with others because they “offer noteworthy signposts to the growth, development, and expansion of the Society of Biblical Literature…”. See H. W. Attridge & J. C. VanderKam, Presidential Voices: The Society Of Biblical Literature In The Twentieth Century, 2006, Society of Biblical Literature: Atlanta, p. vii. Sandmel’s address is reprinted on pp. 107-118.
 S. Sandmel, “Parallelomania”, Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1962, Volume 81, p. 1.
 ibid., p. 2.
 For a brief up-to-date overview of folklore scholarship see, D. Haase (Ed.), The Greenwood Encyclopedia Of Folktales And Fairy Tales, 2008, Volume 1: A–F, Greenwood Press, Westport: USA, pp. xxxiii-xxxix.
 H-J. Uther, The Types Of International Folktales: A Classification And Bibliography, 2004, Part 1: Animal Tales, Tales of Magic, Religious Tales, and Realistic Tales, with an Introduction, Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia Academia Scientiarum Fennica: Helsinki, p. 554.
 ibid., pp. 552-554.
 ibid., p. 554.
 S. Niditch & R. Doran, “The Success Story Of The Wise Courtier: A Formal Approach”, Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1977, Volume 96, Number 2, p. 183, footnote 13. They say, “Thompson lists Ahiqar in The Types under 922a. He evidently believes that the content elements which lead up to Ahiqar’s placement in the role of the person of low status somehow slightly alter the basic type of the tale. There is certainly no problem in describing Ahiqar 5-7:23 as type 922, and indeed these chapters are the thematic core of the work. The disobedient young man and his treachery are only a frame and preparation for this core.”
 ibid., p. 180.
 We are referring here to Alan Dundes study which the author states was the first to investigate the presence of both “formulas and folktales” in the Qur’an. See A. Dundes, Fables Of The Ancients? Folklore In The Qur’an, 2004, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.: USA. This study has been widely criticised. Rippin probably gives the most concise summation, “It lacks any sophistication in approach and it has no theoretical depth.” To get a feel for the wide range of problems, misunderstandings and errors present in Dundes study, including the problematical issues associated with the hermeneutic principles adopted by him, see A. A. Nasr, “Fables Of The Ancients? Folklore In The Qur’an [Book Review]”, Asian Folklore Studies, 2004, Volume 63, Number 1, pp. 165-166; A. Kadhim, “Fables Of The Ancients? Folklore In The Qur’an [Book Review]”, Journal Of Qur’anic Studies, 2004, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp. 78-84; H. Blatherwick, “Fables Of The Ancients? Folklore In The Qur’an [Book Review]”, Journal Of Qur’anic Studies, 2004, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp. 84-88; A. Rippin, “Fables Of The Ancients? Folklore In The Qur’an [Book Review]”, Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 2005, Volume 68, Part 1, pp. 120-122; J. R. Perry, “Fables Of The Ancients? Folklore In The Qur’an [Book Review]”, Journal Of Near Eastern Studies, 2006, Volume 65, Number 3, pp. 208-209; M. Mir, “Fables Of The Ancients? Folklore In The Qur’an [Book Review]”, Journal Of Islamic Studies, 2008, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp. 247-251.
 S. Niditch & R. Doran, “The Success Story Of The Wise Courtier: A Formal Approach”, Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1977, op. cit., p. 183.
 S. Sperl, “The Literary Form Of Prayer: Qur’ān Sura One, The Lord’s Prayer And A Babylonian Prayer To The Moon God”, Bulletin Of The School Of Oriental And African Studies, 1994, Volume 57, Number 1, pp. 213-227.
 S. Sandmel, “Parallelomania”, Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1962, op. cit., p. 4.
 The inscription was published by K. Sethe, Urkunden Der 18. Dynastie: Historisch-Biographische Urkunden, 1909, Volume IV, J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung: Leipzig, IV 1077, 17-18. For translation of the inscription see A. H. Gardiner, “The Autobiography Of Rekhmerēʿ”, Zeitschrift Für Ägyptische Sprache Und Altertumskunde, 1925, Volume 60, p. 69.
 K. Sethe, Urkunden Der 18. Dynastie: Historisch-Biographische Urkunden, 1909, Volume IV, op. cit., IV 1074, 8-10. For translation of the inscription see A. H. Gardiner, “The Autobiography Of Rekhmerēʿ”, Zeitschrift Für Ägyptische Sprache Und Altertumskunde, 1925, op. cit., p. 66.
 K. Sethe, Urkunden Der 18. Dynastie: Historisch-Biographische Urkunden, 1909, Volume IV, op. cit., IV 1075, 13-14. For translation of the inscription see A. H. Gardiner, “The Autobiography Of Rekhmerēʿ”, Zeitschrift Für Ägyptische Sprache Und Altertumskunde, 1925, op. cit., p. 68.
 “Pharaoh” in Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2004 DVD, © 1994 – 2004 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
 “Pharaoh” in H. Lockyer, Sr. (General Editor), F.F. Bruce et al., (Consulting Editors), Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 828.
 F. S. Coplestone (Updated & Expanded by J. C. Trehern), Jesus Christ Or Mohammed? A Guide To Islam And Christianity That Helps Explain The Differences, 2001, Christian Focus Publications: Ross-shire (Scotland), p. 80; For a similar claim also see J. W. Sweetman, Islam And Christian Theology: A Study Of The Interpretation Of Theological Ideas In The Two Religions, 1945, Volume I, Part 1 (Preparatory History Survey of the Early Period), Lutterworth Press: London & Redhill, p. 11.
 Rabbi Dr. S. M. Lehrman (Trans.), Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman & M. Simon (Eds.), Midrash Rabbah: Exodus, 1939, Soncino Press: London (UK), VIII.2, pp. 116-117.
 L. Zunz, Die Gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden: Historisch Entwickelt, 1892, Verlag von J. Kauffmann: Frankfurt, pp. 269. Full discussion in pp. 268-270; Also see “Midrash Exodus (Shemoth Rabbah)”, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1969, Volume 7, Ktav Publishing House, Inc.: New York, p. 539; Similar views are mentioned by Brannon Wheeler in Moses In The Quran And Islamic Exegesis, 2002, RoutledgeCurzon: London, pp. 39-40.
 M. D. Herr, “Exodus Rabbah”, Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 6, Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, cols. 1067-1068;
 A. Shinan, Midrash Shemot Rabbah, Chapters I-XIV: A Critical Edition Based On A Jerusalem Manuscript, With Variants, Commentary And Introduction, 1984, Tel Aviv, p. 19.
 A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, 1979, Aris & Phillips Ltd.: UK, p. 140; P. T. Nicholson & I. Shaw (Eds.), Ancient Egyptian Materials And Technology, 2000, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (UK), p. 79.
 W. M. F. Petrie, Abydos: Part II, 1903, Egyptian Exploration Fund & Trübner & Co: London, p. 25 and p. 48. Petrie comments on the importance of these discoveries by saying (p. 48):
Several objects have placed the history of art and products in an entirely new light, change some of the ideas hitherto accepted.
At the beginning of the 1st Dynasty we meet with the art of glazing fully developed, not only for large monochrome vessels, but for inlay of different colours… It was also used for relief work, and in the round… and on the great scale for the coating of wall surfaces.
 G. A. Reisner, N. F. Wheeler & D. Dunham, Uronarti Shalfak Mirgissa, 1967, Second Cataract Forts: Volume II, Museum Of Fine Arts: Boston (USA), pp. 118-119 and Plate XLIX B; Also see A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, 1979, op. cit., p. 140.
 L. Borchardt, O. Königsberger & H. Ricke, “Friesziegel in Grabbauten”, Zeitschrift Für Ägyptische Sprache Und Altertumskunde, 1934, Volume 70, pp. 25-35; A brief discussion of these bricks at Thebes is also available in A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, 1979, op. cit., p. 140.
 A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, 1979, op. cit., p. 141.
 P. T. Nicholson & I. Shaw (Eds.), Ancient Egyptian Materials And Technology, 2000, op. cit., p. 79; A similar observation was also made by Baldwin Smith. See E. B. Smith, Egyptian Architecture As Cultural Expression, 1938, D. Appleton-Century Company: New York & London, p. 7.
 Sir. F. Petrie, Religious Lie In Ancient Egypt, 1924, Constable & Company Ltd.: London, pp. 208-209.
 C. Jacq (Trans. J. M. Davis), Egyptian Magic, 1985, Aris & Phillips Ltd. & Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers: Chicago, p. 11.
 I. E. S. Edwards, The Pyramids Of Egypt, 1985, Viking, p. 302.
 Concerning the Tower of Babel, Walton et al. state:
Most interpreters agree that the Tower of Babel was a ziggurat… Ziggurats were solid-brick frames filled in with rubble. They did not have passages and chambers the way pyramids did. Ziggurats were usually built alongside a temple. They served as an architectural representation of the stairways that are found in the mythology of Mesopotamia. These stairways were used for gods and their messengers to pass from one realm to another. The function is indicted in the names given to some of the ziggurats: “Sacred place of the foundation of heaven and earth” (Babylon), “Sacred place that links heaven and earth” (Larsa), “Sacred place of the stairway to pure heaven” (Sippar).
The shrine at the top was not a place of worship. It housed a bed and a table stocked with food for the deity to refresh himself as he came down from the heavens to be worshipped in his temple. It is this same sort of stairway that Jacob saw in his dream in Genesis 28. People did not use the ziggurat for any purpose – it was holy ground meant only for use by the gods.
See J. H. Walton & A. E. Hill, Old Testament Today: A Journey From Original Meaning To Contemporary Significance, 2004, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (MI), p.72. For similar statements see J. H. Walton, V. H. Matthews & M. W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 2000, Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove (IL), p. 42; J. H. Walton, V. H. Matthews, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Genesis – Deuteronomy, 1997, Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove (IL), pp. 33-34; W. W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete Old Testament (Wiersbe Bible Commentaries), 2007, David C. Cook: Colorado Springs (CO), p. 52; R. De Vaux (Trans. J. McHugh), Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, 1997, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids (MI) & Dove Booksellers: Livonia (MI), p. 283; J. H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought And The Old Testament: Introducing The Conceptual World Of The Hebrew Bible, 2006, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 121-122; T. G. Pinches, “Babel, Tower Of” in G. W. Bromiley (Ed.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1979, Volume I (A-D), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids (MI), pp. 383-384.
 Jacques Jomier, The Great Themes Of The Qur’an, 1997, op. cit., p. 78:
 M. Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, 1997, Thames And Hudson: London, pp. 175-183.
 J. P. Allen, “Pyramid Texts”, in D. B. Redford (Ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2001, Volume III, Oxford University Press, pp. 95-97.
 M. Verner, “Pyramid”, in D. B. Redford (Ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2001, Volume III, op. cit., p. 88.
 M. Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, 1997, op. cit., p. 34; I. E. S. Edwards, The Pyramids Of Egypt, 1985, op. cit., p. 302; Y. Abou-Hadid, Why Pyramids, 1979, Vantage Press: New York, p. 46; For a slightly different view see J. C. Deaton, “The Old Kingdom Evidence For The Function Of Pyramids”, Varia Aegyptiaca, 1988, Volume 4, No. 3, p. 193-200.
 A. Erman & H. Grapow, Wörterbuch Der Aegyptischen Sprache, 1928, Volume II, J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung: Leipzig, p. 94, 14-16.
 R. Hannig, Die Sprache Der Pharaonen Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch – Deutsch (2800-950 v. Chr.), 2000, Verlag Philipp Von Zabern: Mainz, p. 999; Also see the older edition of the same book by idem., Die Sprache Der Pharaonen Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch – Deutsch (2800-950 v. Chr.), 1995, Verlag Philipp Von Zabern: Mainz, p. 344.
 A. H. Jones, “Hāmān”, in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur’an, 2002, Volume II, op. cit., p. 399.
 C. Peust, Egyptian Phonology – An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language, 1999, Monographien Zur Ägyptischen Sprache – Band 2, Peust & Gutschmidt Verlag: Göttingen.
 A. Erman & H. Grapow, Wörterbuch Der Aegyptischen Sprache, 1971, Volume II, Akademie-Verlag: Berlin, pp. 490-491.
 A. Erman & H. Grapow, Wörterbuch Der Aegyptischen Sprache, 1971, Volume III, Akademie-Verlag: Berlin, p. 95, 14. For more information on this deity, see H. Willems, “Crime, Cult And Capital Punishment (Mo‘alla Inscription 8)”, Journal Of Egyptian Archaeology, 1990, Volume 76, pp. 43-46.
 ibid., p. 96, 1.
 E. A. W. Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, 1920, John Murray: London, Volume I, p. 485
 ibid., p. 447.
 H. Ranke, Die Ägyptischen Personennamen, 1935, Volume I (Verzeichnis der Namen), Verlag Von J. J. Augustin in Glückstadt, p. 240, Nos. 24-26 and p. 241, No. 1.
 ibid., p. 229.
 “ḤMN” in D. Budde, P. Dils, L. Goldbrunner, C. Leitz & D. Mendel in collaboration with F. Förster, D. von Recklinghausen & B. Ventker (Eds.), Lexikon Der Ägyptischen Götter Und Götterbezeichnungen, 2002, Volume V, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta – 114, Peeters: Leuven, p. 150.
 For a basic introduction to the etymology for the word ‘priest’ in ancient Egyptian, please see J. P. Allen, Middle Egyptian – An Introduction To The Language And Culture Of Hieroglyphs, 2010, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (UK), pp. 44, 58, 465.
 H. Willems, “Crime, Cult And Capital Punishment (Mo‘alla Inscription 8)”, Journal Of Egyptian Archaeology, 1990, op. cit., pp. 27, 43-46. Also see H. Goedicke, “A Note On The Early Cult Of Horus In Upper Egypt”, Annales Du Service Des Antiquités De L’Égypte, 1959, Volume 56, pp. 59-62.
 “Amoun”, W. Vycichl, Dictionnaire Étymologique De La Langue Copte, 1983, Peeters: Leuven, pp. 10-11; A. Erman (Trans. J. H. Breasted), Egyptian Grammar With Tables Of Signs, Bibliography, Exercises For Reading And Glossary, 1894, Williams And Norgate: Edinburgh (UK), p. 7.
 K. A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life And Times Of Ramesses II, King Of Egypt, 1982, Aris & Phillips Ltd.: Warminster (England), p. 159.
 “’IMN” in D. Budde, P. Dils, L. Goldbrunner, C. Leitz, D. Mendel in collaboration with F. Förster, D. von Recklinghausen & B. Ventker (Eds.), Lexikon Der Ägyptischen Götter Und Götterbezeichnungen, 2002, Volume I, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta – 110, Peeters: Leuven, p. 312, 332 and 335. The composite image is created using information on these three pages.
 S. Langdon, A. H. Gardiner, “The Treaty Of Alliance Between Ḫattušili, King Of The Hittites, And The Pharaoh Ramesses II Of Egypt”, Journal Of Egyptian Archaeology, 1920, Volume 6, No. 3, pp. 179-205, esp., pp. 181-183 for the transcription of the Hittite inscription.
 J. P. Allen, Middle Egyptian – An Introduction To The Language And Culture Of Hieroglyphs, 2010, Revised Second Edition, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (UK), p. 364.
 S. Langdon, A. H. Gardiner, “The Treaty Of Alliance Between Ḫattušili, King Of The Hittites, And The Pharaoh Ramesses II Of Egypt”, Journal Of Egyptian Archaeology, 1920, op. cit., p. 184. Concerning the transcription of the name of Ramesses II in the Hittite cuneiform tablets, Langdon and Sir Alan Gardiner say:
We are more embarrassed to know how to deal with the Egyptian royal names. The cuneiform tablets, in writing the prenomen and nomen of Ramesses II… set a standard of excellence … which we cannot maintain elsewhere in transcribing Pharaonic names. Here we are usually content with the sort of pronunciation that was current in Greek times, the sort of pronunciation that Manetho used.
Also see J. P. Allen, Middle Egyptian – An Introduction To The Language And Culture Of Hieroglyphs, 2010, op. cit., p. 364.
 J. P. Allen, Middle Egyptian – An Introduction To The Language And Culture Of Hieroglyphs, 2010, op. cit., p. 364, note 11.
 C. Peust, Egyptian Phonology – An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language, 1999, op. cit., pp. 142-143.
 J. P. Allen, Middle Egyptian – An Introduction To The Language And Culture Of Hieroglyphs, 2010, op. cit., p. 15; L. Adkins & R. Adkins, The Little Book Of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, 2001, Hodder & Stoughton: London (UK), p. 37. Concerning the pronunciation of ’I, Adkins et al. write that it:
… was technically a weak consonant and not a vowel. It was possibly not even pronounced very often.
Also see C. Peust, Egyptian Phonology – An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language, 1999, op. cit., pp. 49-50.
 G. Englund, Middle Egyptian – An Introduction, 1995, Uppsala University: Uppsala, p. 1.
 C. Peust, Egyptian Phonology – An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language, 1999, op. cit., pp. 96-98.
 C. Peust, Egyptian Phonology – An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language, 1999, op. cit., p. 226. Also J. S. Galán, “EA 164 And The God Amun”, Journal Of Near Eastern Studies, 1992, Volume 51, No. 4., pp. 287-291, esp. p. 287.
 The discussion here is condensed from the following articles: “Priests” in M. R. Bunson, Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2002, Revised Edition, Facts On File, Inc.: New York (NY), p. 265; “Priests” in I. Shaw & P. Nicholson, The British Museum Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt, 1995, The American University in Cairo Press: Cairo (Egypt), pp. 228-229.
 R. K. Ritner, The Mechanics Of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, 2008, 4th Imprinting, Studies In Ancient Oriental Civilization No. 54, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago: Chicago (IL), pp. 248-249 and note 1142.
 J. Gee, “Prophets, Initiation and the Egyptian Temple”, Journal Of The Society For The Study Of Egyptian Antiquities, 2004, Volume 31, p. 100.
 ibid., pp. 99-100.
 R. H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods And Goddesses Of Ancient Egypt, 2003, Thames & Hudson: London (UK), pp. 187-190; “Anubis” in G. Hart, The Routledge Dictionary Of Egyptian Gods And Goddesses, 2005, Routledge: London (UK) & New York (USA), pp. 25-28.
 R. K. Ritner, The Mechanics Of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice, 2008, op. cit., p. 249 and note 1142.
 W. M. F. Petrie, The Religion Of Ancient Egypt, 1906, Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd.: London (UK), p. 30.
 Apart from the earlier mention of “ḤMN” and “’IMN”, the are numerous examples of the priest of a temple in ancient Egypt being referred to in the title by the name of the deity of that temple.
 I. Shaw, Ancient Egypt: A Very Short Introduction, 2004, Oxford University Press Inc.: New York, p. 129.
 “Herihor” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, Routledge: London & New York, pp. 65-66; “Herihor, High Priest Of Amun 1100-1094 BC” in R. David & A. E. David, A Biographical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt, 1992, Seaby: London (UK), pp. 50-5; “Herihor” in P. D. Netzley, M. Berger (Eds.), The Greenhaven Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2003, Greenhaven Press: Farmington Hills (MI), p. 138; “Herihor” in M. R. Bunson, Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 166.
 “Herihor” in P. D. Netzley, M. Berger (Eds.), The Greenhaven Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2003, op. cit., p. 138.
 The chronological chart is drawn from the data given by K. A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life And Times Of Ramesses II, King Of Egypt, 1982, Aris & Phillips Ltd.: Warminster (England), pp. 170-171 and ‘Chart 2: The Reign of Ramesses II’ on pp. 240-243.
 “Bakenkhons” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, Routledge: London & New York, pp. 33-34; “Bakenkhons (Bakenkhonsu)” in P. D. Netzley, M. Berger (Eds.), The Greenhaven Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2003, Greenhaven Press: Farmington Hills (MI), p. 65; “Bakenkhons” in M. L. Bierbrier, Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt, 2008, Historical Dictionaries of Ancient Civilizations and Historical Eras – No. 22, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., p. 33; K. Jansen-Winkeln, “The Career Of The Egyptian High Priest Bakenkhons”, Journal Of Near Eastern Studies, 1993, Volume 52, No. 3, pp. 221-225; K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), Blackwell Publishers: Oxford (UK), pp. 210-215; E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, Society Of Biblical Literature: Atlanta (GA), pp. 39-46; J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Records From The Earliest Times To The Persian Conquest, 1906, Volume III, University of Chicago Press: Chicago (IL), No. 561-568., pp. 234-237; “Bakenkhonsu” in M. R. Bunson, Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2002, Revised Edition, Facts On File, Inc.: New York (NY), p. 64.
 K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 35-47, esp. p. 37 (Under ‘Prahotep B, Vizier’); E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, op. cit., pp. 150-162.
 “Khaemwaset” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., pp. 93-94; “Khaemwaset” in P. D. Netzley, M. Berger (Eds.), The Greenhaven Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2003, op. cit., pp. 163-164; “Khaemwese” in M. L. Bierbrier, Historical Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt, 2008, op. cit., pp. 110-111; K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 1996, Volume II (Ramesses II, Royal Inscriptions), Blackwell Publishers: Oxford (UK), p. 565; “Kha’emweset” in M. R. Bunson, Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 198; K. A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life And Times Of Ramesses II, King Of Egypt, 1982, op. cit., p. 103.
 “Neferronpet” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 134; “Neferrenpet” in M. R. Bunson, Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 269; K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 31-35.
 “Wennufer” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., pp. 219-220; K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 318-327; idem., Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life And Times Of Ramesses II, King Of Egypt, 1982, op. cit., pp. 170-171; E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, op. cit., pp. 97-101; G. A. Gaballa, “Monuments Of Prominent Men Of Memphis, Abydos And Thebes”, in J. Ruffle, G. A. Gaballa, K. A. Kitchen (Eds.), Glimpses Of Ancient Egypt: Studies In Honour Of H. W. Fairman, 1979, Aris & Phillips Ltd.: Warminster (England), pp. 43-46.
 K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 327-328.
 K. A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life And Times Of Ramesses II, King Of Egypt, 1982, op. cit., p. 170; idem., Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 334-338.
 His inscriptions date from the time of Merneptah, Ramesses II son. For more details see K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., p. 338. A long inscription of Anhurmose at El-Mashayikh, a necropolis of Thinis, is translated by E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, op. cit., pp. 107-116. Also see “Anhurmose” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 21.
 K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 35-47, esp. p. 37 (Under ‘Prahotep B, Vizier’).
 “Architects: Builders, Overseers Of Public Works, Engineers” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 247.
 R. H. Wilkinson, The Complete Gods And Goddesses Of Ancient Egypt, 2003, Thames & Hudson Ltd.: London (UK), p. 95.
 R. H. Wilkinson, The Complete Temples Of Ancient Egypt, 2000, Thames & Hudson: New York (USA), p. 25.
 K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 191-201. For inscriptions of Amenemone and Penre, see E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, op. cit., pp. 189-193.
 “Bakenkhons” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 33.
 K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 210-215, esp. pp. 213-215 for the inscription at Munich; E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, op. cit., pp. 39-46, esp. pp. 40-42; J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Records From The Earliest Times To The Persian Conquest, 1906, Volume III, University of Chicago Press: Chicago (IL), No. 561-568, pp. 234-237
 “Bakenkhons” in M. Rice, Who’s Who In Ancient Egypt, 2002, op. cit., p. 34.
 Kitchen gives the age of Ramesses II as ~90 years. See K. A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life And Times Of Ramesses II, King Of Egypt, 1982, op. cit., p. 207. On the other hand, Clayton gives an age of ~92 years. See P. A. Clayton, Chronicle Of The Pharaohs: The Reign-By-Reign Record Of The Rulers And Dynasties Of Ancient Egypt, 1994, Thames and Hudson Ltd.: London (UK), p. 155.
 K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., p. 213. Similar translation is also seen in E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, op. cit., p. 40. It reads:
Member of the pat, count, high priest of Amun, Bakenkhons, true of voice, he says: I was truly assiduous, effective for his lord, who respected the renown of his god, who went forth upon his path, who performed acts of beneficence within his temple while I was chief overseer of works in the domain of Amun, as an excellent confidant for his lord.
Also J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Records From The Earliest Times To The Persian Conquest, 1906, Volume III, op. cit., No. 564., pp. 235-236.
 E. Frood, Biographical Texts From Ramessid Egypt, 2007, op. cit., pp. 41-42.
 K. A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions, Translated & Annotated, 2000, Volume III (Ramesses II, His Contemporaries), op. cit., pp. 214. Also see J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Records From The Earliest Times To The Persian Conquest, 1906, Volume III, op. cit., No. 567., pp. 236-237. The translated text reads: ‘I erected obelisks therein, of granite, whose beauty approached heaven.’
 J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Records From The Earliest Times To The Persian Conquest, 1906, Volume III, op. cit., No. 567., p. 237, note b.
 M. Abd El-Razik, “The Dedicatory And Building Texts of Ramesses II In Luxor Temple: II: The Texts”, Journal Of Egyptian Archaeology, 1974, Volume 60, pp. 142-160, esp. inscriptions on pp. 151-152; idem., “The Dedicatory And Building Texts of Ramesses II In Luxor Temple: II: Interpretation”, Journal Of Egyptian Archaeology, 1975, Volume 61, pp. 130-131.
 K. A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life And Times Of Ramesses II, King Of Egypt, 1982, op. cit., ‘Chart 2: The Reign of Ramesses II’ on pp. 240-243.
 J. C. E. Watson, The Phonology And Morphology of Arabic, 2002, Oxford University Press: Oxford (UK), Chapter 2, pp. 13-23.
 “ʾAl-Ḥāʾ” in E. M. Badawi & M. Abdel Haleem, Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage, 2008, Handbook of Oriental Studies – Volume 85, Brill: Leiden & Boston, p. 186.
 C. Peust, Egyptian Phonology – An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language, 1999, op. cit., pp. 98-99. Also see p. 48 for listing of ancient Egyptian alphabets.
 “ʾAl-Hāʾ” in E. M. Badawi & M. Abdel Haleem, Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage, 2008, op. cit., p. 975.
 “ʾAl-Hamza” in E. M. Badawi & M. Abdel Haleem, Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage, 2008, op. cit., p. 1.
 “ʾAlif” in E. M. Badawi & M. Abdel Haleem, Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage, 2008, op. cit., pp. 37-38..
 H. Kahana, Esther: Juxtaposition Of The Septuagint Translation With The Hebrew Text, 2005, op. cit., pp. 127-129.
 E. J. Bakker, A Companion To The Ancient Greek Language, 2010, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., pp. 86-87; A. L. Sihler, New Comparative Grammar Of Greek And Latin, 1995, Oxford University Press: New York & Oxford, p. 20.
 S. M. Syed, “Historicity Of Haman As Mentioned In The Qur’an”, Islamic Quarterly, 1980, Volume 24, No. 1 & 2, pp. 52-54. Republished idem., “Historicity Of Hāmān As Mentioned In The Qur’ān”, Hamdard Islamicus, 1984, Volume 7, No. 4, pp. 86-88. Republished again with modified title and some minor changes, idem., “Haman In The Quran: A Historical Assessment”, in M. Taher (Ed.), Encyclopaedic Survey Of Islamic Culture, 1997, Volume 2, Studies In Quran, Anmol Publications: Delhi (India), pp. 176-189.
 A. Badawi, “Le Problème De Hāmān” in R. Traini (Ed), Studi In Onore Di Francesco Gabrieli Nel Suo Ottantesimo Compleanno, 1984, Volume I, Università di Roma La Sapienza: Roma, pp. 29-33, esp. p. 32 where he says:
Notre hypothèse est la suivante: le nom Hâmân dans le Coran est identique à Amon; le rapprochement entre les deux noms est d’autant plus facile qu’Amon se prononce aussi Amana (voir Encyclopaedia Britannica, I, p. 321, col. 1; édition 1 982). Il est sous-entendu, par abbréviation, « grand prêtre de … ». Comme le titre Pharaon désigna le Roi d’Egypte, le titre de Haman finit par désigner dans la tradition orale le vizir de Pharaon.
 M. Asad (Trans.), The Message Of The Qur’an, 1984, Dar Al-Andalus: Gibraltar, p. 590, note 6.
Most probably, the word “Hāmān” as used in the Qur’ān is not a proper name at all but the Arabicized echo of the compound designation Hā-Amen given to every high priest of the Egyptian god Amon. Since at the time in question the cult of Amon was paramount in Egypt, his high priest held in rank second only to that of the reigning Pharaoh. The assumption that the person spoken of in the Qur’ān as Hāmān was indeed the high priest of the cult of Amon is strengthened by Pharaoh’s demand… that Hāmān erect for him “a lofty tower” from which he could “have a look at [or “ascend to”] the god of Moses”:…
 L. Fatoohi & S. Al-Dargazelli, History Testifies To The Infallibility Of The Qur’an – Early History Of Children Of Israel, 1999, Adam Publishers & Distributors: Delhi (India), pp. 145-154, esp. 148-150.
 A. H. Jones, “Hāmān”, in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur’an, 2002, Volume II, op. cit., p. 399.
One suggestion is that Hāmān is an Arabized echo of the Egyptian Hā-Amen, the title of a high priest second only in rank to Pharaoh (Asad, Message, 590, n. 6).
 “Hāmān” in E. M. Badawi & M. Abdel Haleem, Arabic-English Dictionary Of Qur’anic Usage, 2008, op. cit., p. 978. The entry states:
[(proper) noun occurring six times in the Qur’an. It is considered to be a Coptic borrowing related to the Egyptian God of Amon, most likely, according to Muhammad Asad, the designation ‘Ha-Amen’ given to every high priest of the Egyptian god of Amon (not to be confused with Persian Haman of the Old Testament), or possibly, according to other commentators, it is a proper noun] either the name of the chief aid to Pharaoh or the title of the high priest in Egypt at the time of Moses (Est. III ff)…
 H. Ranke, Die Ägyptischen Personennamen, 1935, Volume I (Verzeichnis der Namen), op. cit., p. 240, Nos. 24-26 and p. 241, No. 1.
 S. Reinisch, Die Aegyptischen Denkmaeler In Miramar, 1865, Wilhelm Braumüller: Wein, pp. 255-256, Nr. 18 and Nr 19, Tafel XXXIX A and B.
 W. Wreszinski, Aegyptische Inschriften Aus Dem K.K. Hof Museum In Wien, 1906, J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung: Leipzig, I 34, p. 130.
 ibid., p. 196.
 D. van der Plas (Ed.), Egyptian Treasures in Europe Volume 5: Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien / Vienna, 2002, U-CCER Production B. V.: Heidelberglaan (The Netherlands).
 M. Bucaille, Moses and Pharaoh: The Hebrews In Egypt, 1995, NTT Mediascope Inc.: Tokyo, pp. 192-193.
 Silverstein recognises this also, see A. Silverstein, “Hāmān’s Transition From Jāhiliyya To Islam”, Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 2008 (published 2009), op. cit., pp. 306-307.
 G. S. Reynolds, The Qur’ān And Its Biblical Subtext, 2010, Routledge: Oxford, p. 2 (more generally the whole introduction).
 ibid., p. 3. Presumably what is meant here is Western Qur’anic studies.
 ibid., p. 17.
 G. S. Reynolds, “Muhammad Through Christian Eyes: Demonic Charlatan Or Moral Exemplar? The Church’s Mixed Response To Islam’s Prophet”, Books & Culture: A Christian Review, 2002 (January/February), Volume 8, Issue 1, p. 8.
 idem., The Qur’ān And Its Biblical Subtext, 2010, op. cit., pp. 101-103.
 ibid., pp. 104-106.
 J. L. Kugel, Traditions Of The Bible: A Guide To The Bible As It Was At The Start Of The Common Era, 1998, op. cit., pp. 228-233.
 G. S. Reynolds, The Qur’ān And Its Biblical Subtext, 2010, op. cit., p. 101 & p. 103.
 ibid., p. 104.
 S. B. Berg, The Book Of Esther: Motifs, Themes, And Structure, 1979, Scholars Press: Atlanta, pp. 6-7.
 ibid., pp. 123-142.
 G. S. Reynolds, The Qur’ān And Its Biblical Subtext, 2010, op. cit., p. 104.
 ibid., footnote 293.
 There is actually a third Greek text. Hanhart gives the readings to this text in his apparatus for GII. See, S. Weeks, “Some Neglected Texts Of Tobit: The Third Greek Version”, in M. Bredin (Ed.), Studies In The Book Of Tobit: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 2006, T & T Clark: London, pp. 12-42.
 R. Hanhart (Ed.), Tobit, 1983, Septuaginta: Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Scientiarum Gottingensis Editum VIII, 5, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Göttingen, pp. 181-182.
 S. Weeks, S. Gathercole & L. Stuckenbruck (Eds.), The Book Of Tobit: Texts From The Principal Ancient And Medieval Traditions, 2004, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.: Berlin, pp. 326-329.
 G. S. Reynolds, The Qur’ān And Its Biblical Subtext, 2010, op. cit., p. 105.